Vols Rally Falls Short In Athens

Tennessee fell to Georgia for the third straight time today at sold out anford Stadium in Athens, but the Vols didn' fall on their face.

In fact, Tennessee saved face with a furious fourth-quarter rally behind the inspired play of true freshman quarterback James Banks Jr. Ultimately, the Vols' comeback came up short as the Bulldogs held on for an 18-13 victory, after leading 18-0 in the final stanza.

After gaining only 170 yards through the first three quarters and never getting inside the Georgia 25, Banks led Tennessee on a pair of 80-yard scoring marches in the fourth quarter. The first culminated in a 34-yard screen pass to Marietta, Ga., native Derrick Tinsley to cut the Dogs lead to 18-6, following the unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt. That drive took just four plays and featured a 48-yard Banks to Tony Brown completion.

Then the Vols put together a nine-play scoring drive, that was kept alive by a 44-yard Banks to Kelley Washington pass play, and was capped by Tinsley's five-yard halfback pass to Jason Witten on third and goal. That brought Tennessee to within five points of the lead with 3:21 to play.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Vols elected to try an onside kick which Georgia recovered at Tennessee's 43. A determined Tennessee defense forced a fourth down and two with just under two minutes to play, but the Bulldogs got outside with tailback Tony Milton, who picked up the first down on a 25-yard run to ice the game.

Much like the 2001 upset in Knoxville, the Vols had the superior rushing attack and gained more total yards despite the absence of starting quarterback Casey Clausen. But Georgia had the edge in the kicking game blocking a Tennessee punt that went out of the end zone for a safety and blocking a 44-yard field goal attempt by Tennessee's Phillip Newman which led to another Bulldog field goal by David Bennett. A third Bennett three-pointer was set up by a fumbled snap exchange which the Bulldogs pounced on at UT¹s 36.

Georgia's only touchdown came on a 55-yard scoring drive that ended with an 11-yard toss from David Greene to Reggie Brown. The drive was set up when Tennessee lost 14 yards trying to pick up a first down on fourth and one at Georgia's 31.

Tennessee finished the game with 344 total yards to Georgia's 294. The Bulldogs were held to 62 yards rushing in 32 carries and Musa Smith, who gained 136 yards vs. Alabama last week, finished with 29 yards in 19 attempts.

C.J. Leak started in place of the injured Clausen, but after failing to get a first down on the Vols first two possessions, Banks entered the game and played all except one series the rest of the way. He finished the game completing 10-of-15 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown and rushed 35 yards in 14 attempts which included several long scrambles.

Tennessee came in with a game plan to control the ball with the run and finished with 162 yards in 40 carries for an average of 4.1 yards per carry. Jabari Davis led all rushers with 65 yards in 14 carries. However after falling behind by 18 with 5:53 left in the third quarter, the Vols were forced into a catch-up mode.

"We're not about moral victories," Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer said in an interview broadcast by the Vol Network. "But I can't help but to be proud of this team. We had a game plan and except for a couple of blocked kicks our kids carried it out. We don't know how tired they (Bulldogs) would have been if we could have pounded the ball in the third quarter."

Fulmer didn't wait for a question to praise the play of Banks.

"James Banks did a tremendous job and we kept fighting," he said. "We just didn't have enough at the end to get it done, but that young man has a terrific future at quarterback."

Banks ability to buy time with the scramble and get the ball to the corner quickly, had Georgia's defense back on it heels. Meanwhile, Tennessee's defense kept its team in the game with a hard-nosed effort.

"The defense played its guts out," Fulmer said. "We held them at least three times inside the 25 to force a field goal and the defense has a lot of people hurt."

Although Tennessee had the two kicks blocked, the Vols did win the return game. Corey Larkins' 42-yard punt return on UT¹s first possession of the second half put the Vols in business at the UGA 38. Conversely, Georgia's vaunted return game, which hurt Tennessee often in last season¹s upset, was shut down by the Vols.

"They were leading the country in kick returns and got nothing," Fulmer said. "They were leading the country in punt returns and got nothing. So in a lot of ways we played special teams well."

The Vols, who are virtually eliminated in the SEC East title race with a 1-2 start and losses to Florida and Georgia, will have an off week next Saturday and must regroup for an invasion by Alabama on Oct. 26.

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