KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Fred Gibson had to wait four games for the first reception of his college career.
Gibson made sure the result was worth the wait.
Giving Georgia its first lead of the game at 17-14, Gibson streaked across the middle for a 15-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter Saturday.
Gibson, a freshman from Waycross, Ga., caught only one other pass — but it also was memorable. On the first play of a fourth-quarter drive that again gave Georgia a lead, Gibson again broke free on a screen, this time for 55 yards. It helped set up a field goal for a 20-17 lead.
Gibson, who also returned two kickoffs for 62 yards, finished with two catches for 70 yards. Because Georgia opened with four receivers, Gibson earned his first start. He is expected to continue to share time with starting receivers Terrence Edwards and Damien Gary.
"I knew what was expected; I had to step up after Reggie (Brown) was hurt. I knew if I could play like I'm capable of playing, I could do it.''
Coach Mark Richt said Gibson missed some assignments but "is just going to get better and better.''
"I was glad he got a chance to get untracked a little bit,'' Richt said.
Fourth down blues
In its first three games, Georgia successfully converted three of four fourth-down plays.
Against Tennessee, fourth downs almost proved costly.
In the second quarter, Richt elected to go for the first down on a fourth-and-one play from the Tennessee 7. Tailback Musa Smith attempted to pick up the yard by leaping over the pile of players at the line, but a measurement showed he was inches short.
Richt faced another tough fourth-down call in the third quarter, this time at the Tennessee 40. After calling a time out to consider the decision, Richt elected to punt, and the decision paid off when Jonathan Kilgo's punt was downed at the 1-yard line.
Most amazing was Georgia's ability to win despite making first-down yardage on only one of 11 third-down plays.
By comparison, Tennessee was 9-for-19 on third-down conversions.
New blood on the defensive front
Two true freshmen — tackle David Pollack and end Robert Geathers — saw substantial time on the defensive line as Georgia sought a way to stop Vols tailback Travis Stephens.
Each was credited with one tackle.
Pollack wears No. 47 because he is retaining the option of playing fullback in the future.
Kirouac gets his kicks
Brett Kirouac returned to his role as Georgia's kickoff specialist, and he excelled. Kirouac did not allow any return yardage on any kickoffs until the last play of the game, when he intentionally kicked off high and short to avoid a long return.
Otherwise, Kirouac had five kickoffs that were either downed in the end zone or bounced through the end zone.
Kirouac was the primary kickoff specialist last season, but he was sidelined by a hip-flexor injury. Kilgo handled kickoffs the first three games.
Kilgo to Wansley
Though not needed on kickoffs, Kilgo also was key to the field-position battle with two third-quarter efforts, each forcing Tennessee to take possession at its 1.
In each case, Kilgo's punts were downed by Tim Wansley.
Early in the third quarter, Wansley caught a 34-yard punt in the air. Just before his momentum carried him into the end zone, Wansley dropped the ball where it was downed at the 1.
Later in the quarter, Richt elected to punt on a fourth-and-1 call from the Tennessee 40, and Kilgo made the decision look good with a punt again downed at the 1 by Wansley.
After Kilgo's punt from the Tennessee 42 bounced into the end zone later in the quarter, Tennessee fans cheered loudly.
For the day, Kilgo averaged 42.4 yards for seven punts, including three downed inside the 20.
Sophomore Chris Clemons, starting for the injured Will Witherspoon at weakside linebacker, was credited with eight tackles. ...Tennessee standout defensive tackle John Henderson recorded six tackles and one sack. ... Tony Gilbert led Georgia with 11 stops.