“When they put him back there,” outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “Getting the first quarterback knocked out and getting in there, I know it’s a tense situation for (Peterman), and as soon as (he) came in we really just wanted to get him on the ground and attack him.”
Following a lackluster start for Georgia’s pass rushers, in the end, Georgia had the momentum on its side following a Jalen Hurd fumble that was picked up by Georgia’s Josh Dawson for a Bulldogs touchdown to put Georgia up 35-25. Dawson’s first career defensive touchdown, paired with a 51-yard rushing touchdown by Todd Gurley earlier in the fourth quarter, was enough to help put Tennessee away Saturday in Sanford.
“We really just got comfortable out there,” Dawson said. “We were trying to figure out was going on the first half; figure out whether they were going to run screens or anything like that. Second half, we got locked in (and) got comfortable, and we just let it go, really.”
Following the 51-yard touchdown run by Gurley and a 28-17 lead for Georgia, Tennessee had no choice but to put its starter back in the game. It worked. Worley led Tennessee 52 yards down the field and capped off the drive with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Pig Howard. Under heavy pressure, Worley converted the two-point conversion with a pass to Daniel Helm to cut the Georgia lead to 28-25 with 8:07 left in the game.
Georgia’s quarterback pressure improved as the game went on, but its secondary still struggled as Worley threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns on 23 completions.
“We covered those guys pretty tight, and then a lot of the plays they did make, it was bang-bang,” cornerback Damian Swann said. “Those guys are huge so they’re going to make those high catches. That’s what they do.”
Swann aided in Georgia’s pass rushing attack with one quarterback sack for a loss of seven yards to add to his eight total tackles.
Georgia made the necessary adjustments at the half. Those, paired with the havoc Georgia’s pass rushers wreaked on Peterman, made for too much of a deficit for Tennessee to overcome.
“They were just keeping us off our game, run (and) pass,” Dawson said. “It was really just a mixture so we couldn’t really find any pattern at the time, but we really just came out in the second half with a mindset that ‘we’ve got to go’ and make something happen. The defense played exceptional.”
Pressure from Jenkins and Carter combined put Peterman in a tight spot early in the fourth quarter, and Georgia got the defensive stop it needed to turn the tide on its pass-rushing performance, or lack thereof early in the game. Jenkins finished five tackles and a sack for a loss of 10 yards. Carter added three tackles, too.
The first half was just flat out frustrating for Jenkins, and Peterman had to suffer the consequences.
“After those types of plays, after the game you’ve got to sit down and think of what you can do to get one or two seconds faster so you can make that play,” Jenkins said. “After that happens I really just get angry and I really want to punish the quarterback on the next play.”