The turning point

Winners make plays; losers make excuses. That's the story in most athletic events, and it certainly was the case in Georgia's 27-14 defeat of Tennessee Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

Down 7-0 late in the second quarter, the Vols drove to a second-and-six at the Bulldogs' 15-yard line. The next two snaps probably were the two most important in the game. Georgia made a play, Tennessee didn't, and the Vols never really recovered.

First, Rick Clausen slightly overthrew a wide-open Bret Smith in the middle of the end zone. Whether or not Smith could've made the catch is debatable. This much is not: If the pass had been six inches lower, it would've been a 7-7 game and the Vols would've seized the momentum.

One play after slightly overthrowing Smith, Clausen slightly underthrew Chris Hannon near the back-left corner of the end zone. DeMario Minter intercepted, killing the threat and giving Georgia a huge lift. The Dawgs didn't score on their ensuing possession but they eventually kicked a field goal on the final play of the half.

That end-zone interception probably meant the difference between a 7-7 halftime tie and a 10-0 halftime deficit.

"That was a big one," Vol offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said of Clausen's interception. "I just told him, ‘You've either got to throw it out there or lay it off – one of the two. You can't do that one to us. The great thing about Rick is, he knew it. He knew he'd made a bad play there and it really hurt us."

Basically, Clausen's read wasn't very good and his throw wasn't very good, either.

"If he throws it on out there to the back point of the end zone, he's probably got it (a TD)," Sanders said. "For the read he made, it was a bad throw. He probably had the back out in the flat more open. But you also had a chance to hit Chris (Hannon) if you throw it on out there more."

Clausen conceded that the end-zone interception was costly, but gave a lot of credit to Minter.

"It was a good play by the DB … probably a bad read by me," the Vol quarterback said. "You've got to give him credit. He baited me a little bit. I thought I was going to get it done. He made a great play and went up for it, so you've got to give him credit for that play.

"There were too many plays that didn't quite work. But that's a big one."

Head coach Phillip Fulmer agreed that Minter's Oskie was "was very significant," adding: "Right there before the half we had a chance to get some points; we ended up not getting any."

Still, the Vol boss correctly noted that the end-zone interception never would've happened if Clausen and Smith had connected on the previous snap.

"The play before was as big a play as the interception," Fulmer said, "because we missed out on a touchdown."


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