However the venerable Munson chose to describe the outcome of this perennial southern classic it would have been colorful, memorable and quotable. And it would end with Tennessee taking Georgia to the woodshed for a good old fashioned country whipping.
Clearly the Vols most impressive performance since the 51-33 win over Georgia ‘between the hedges' in 2006. (Although, in retrospect, UT's near win against LSU last season was probably as impressive a performance given the consortium of circumstances and the strength of opponents.)
It will take time and further comparisons to fully evaluate just how significantly this win is. As good as the execution and ball security was the Vols' ferocity carried the day. The Dawgs appeared to have been simply overwhelmed by the level of intensity UT had brought to the Shields-Watkins Field.
Certainly there wasn't a lot from game film of this season to suggest the Vols would give such an emotional effort. And UT's defeat in Florida probably gave Georgia a false sense of security entering Neyland Stadium. No doubt having two weeks off helped, as did a fortnight of fuming from a disgruntled fan base. This could have also been a case of troubled team closing ranks around beleaguered coach. Or perhaps it was a combination of these factors that launched the Vols to a peak performance. Whatever it was the crowd responded with a pent up outburst of energy that spurred the team to a commanding victory.
Obviously UT can't continue to play at that elevated level of intensity. Over the span of a college season a team is capable of perhaps peaking three times. That's why the sequence of opponents on a schedule can be as important as the strength of opponents.
While the defense generally benefits most from emotion, the Vols' offense executed with a cool precision that proved the perfect complement to the stop troops' fiery play. What's most encouraging about the offensive effort is that it can more easily be duplicated down the road without the emotion that fueled the defense. With the exception of South Carolina, UT probably won ‘t play a better defense this season than Georgia. However the defense will see several offenses that pose more problems. Here's the top to bottom offensive ratings for the Tennessee-Georgia game. Grades of 90-100 are regarded as championship quality. Grades of 80-89 equate to top 25 worthy, grades of 70-79 are winning marks. Grades of 60-69 are passing but problematical and won't be good enough to defeat a quality opponent. Any grade below 60 is considered failing. Each score will be followed by a brief comment. Further analysis to follow.
OFFENSIVE LINE (95) The line got it done with style points as the Vols averaged 4.3 yards per rush, 9.6 yards per pass attempt and controlled the ball 10:12 longer than the Bulldogs. They also scored TDs on all three trips into the Orange Zone and didn't allow the Dawgs' defense even the sniff of a sack. The 7 of 14 third down conversion rate could have been higher, but that's a minor criticism. Josh McNeil is growing into the role of O-line anchor and he made some good adjustments to help the Vols pick up blitzes. Tennessee appeared more athletic and mobile up front than anytime this season. Tackles did a good job of sealing the ends and creating running room on the perimeter. Also sold the misdirection.
RUNNING BACKS (93) Arian Foster ran with vision and power. He has raised his game through hard work over the offseason and looks quicker, stronger and better conditioned than any point in the past. He rushed for 98 yards on only 17 carries for three touchdowns and a beefy 5.8 average per carry. Montario Hardesty returned to action and gained 70 yards in 14 carries. Probably his most impressive and consistent effort in three seasons. Hardesty has a lot of raw ability and just needs reps to see significant improvement. LaMarcus Coker only had 17 net yards in eight carries but his 56-yard TD reception was the Vols biggest play of the day. Quality depth at tailback is limiting freshman Lennon Creer's development but he may have more potential than any of the veterans.
QUARTERBACK (90) It wasn't a big game in terms of numbers for Eric Ainge but his operation of the offense was virtually flawless and he kept the Vols out of any bad plays. Exhibited his usual accuracy and didn't force anything through the air. He missed a block on Lucas Taylor's reverse pass but the wideout still managed to connect with a wide open Coker. Ainge is 3 for 3 against Georgia which will probably be his legacy at Tennessee.
RECEIVERS (87) Tennessee's wideouts only produced a little over 150 yards and no touchdowns, but they did a good job of running disciplined routes and made the catches needed to move the sticks. Taylor (6 catches for 50 yards) and Austin Rogers (6 catches for 61 yards) led the way. Freshman Denarius Moore caught one pass for 34 yards. Still no sign of Kenny O'Neil or a receiver that is a threat after the catch.
OVERALL (92) Excellent balance with 199 yards on the ground and 221 through the air. The success of the base run/pass package created misdirection opportunities and kept Georgia's defense off balance. Such plays work because the Vols established production with the run. That's the key for Tennessee the rest of the season.