Not-so-special teams

Georgia has prevailed on its last three visits to Neyland Stadium, and superior special team's play was the major reason in two of those triumphs.

In 2001, the Bulldogs' kicking game dominated Tennessee's in a 26-24 victory. Georgia got a 72-yard punt return TD from Damien Gary, outpunted UT 42.4 yards to 33.4 and averaged 22.5 yards on kickoff runbacks to UT's 2.0. Meanwhile, Tennessee missed a 34-yard field goal and executed a squib kick so poorly that Georgia returned it to the 41-yard line with 44 seconds left, setting up its game-winning TD drive.

It was more of the same Saturday, as the Dawgs prevailed 27-14. Georgia again made plays in the kicking game, Tennessee again made mistakes in the kicking game, and the combination again proved decisive.

For instance:

After Georgia took a 7-0 lead, Arian Foster was called for holding on the ensuing kickoff return, forcing Tennessee to start at its 6-yard line. Georgia got the ball back in good field position.

Moments later, a brilliant "pooch punt" by Gordon Ely-Kelso was downed at the Vol 2-yard line. Georgia again got the ball back in good field position.

Late in the first half, an illegal-block-in-the-back penalty against freshman Demetrice Morley on a Vol punt return forced Tennessee to start its final drive of the half at its 8-yard line. The Vols picked up one first down, then fumbled, setting up a Georgia field goal that widened the gap to 10-0.

Another illegal-block-in-the-back penalty – this time on Jon Poe – forced Tennessee to start its second possession of the second half at its own 7-yard line. The Vols picked up three first downs before stalling.

An Ely-Kelso pooch punt was downed at the Vol 1-yard line five minutes into the final quarter. UT ran three plays and punted. UGA's Thomas Flowers returned it 54 yards for a touchdown that padded the score to 20-7 and sealed the deal.

Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer is understandably discouraged by the way Georgia's special teams outplayed the Vols' special teams.

"A couple of guys got out of their lanes on the punt return," he said, subsequently terming the penalties on kickoff/punt returns that forced UT to start three drives inside its 10-yard line "silly, stupid mistakes."

Wherever the blame lies, Georgia's clearcut superiority in special team's play has proved decisive in two of the last three meetings at Neyland Stadium.

Maybe the Vols need to hire the Dawgs' special teams coach.


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