Dawgs dominate UT, 26-14

The best thing you could say about Tennessee's offensive linemen in Saturday's 26-14 loss at No. 10 Georgia was that fans only had to watch their futility for 17 minutes.

The run blocking was so poor that the Vols managed just 1 net yard on 15 rushes. The pass protection was a little better, although quarterback Nick Stephens compiled most of his passing numbers – 13 of 30 for 208 yards and two touchdowns – while waiting to be hit.

Whereas a veteran Vol blocking front was dormant, a patchwork Georgia O-line was dominant, enabling the Dawgs to run 81 plays and keep the ball for 42 minutes and 4 seconds. Conversely, the Vols ran just 45 plays while maintaining possession for a mere 17 minutes and 12 seconds. As a result, Georgia amassed 29 first downs and 458 net yards, whereas Tennessee mustered but 10 first downs and 209 yards.

Speaking on his post-game radio show, Vol head man Phillip Fulmer bemoaned "an absolutely disappointing day," noting that "We got nothing done offensively to speak of, other than a few big plays. Defensively, we let them (Bulldogs) stay on the field way too long."

Although the Vol defense got virtually no help from the offense, Big Orange defenders contributed to their own misery by allowing Georgia to convert on 9 of 17 third-down plays. The Dawgs marched inside the Tennessee 20-yard line seven times on their 10 possessions.

Two of those possessions were repelled by Vol interceptions, and those two turnovers set up Tennessee's only scores.

The first pick came when the Dawgs, already leading 13-0, advanced to the Vol 13-yard line late in the second quarter. Defensive end Robert Ayers sniffed out a screen pass, stepped in front of the intended receiver and returned the pick to the Vol 23-yard line.

A 60-yard pass from Stephens to Denarius Moore sparked a six-play, 77-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown toss to Gerald Jones that pulled UT within 13-7.

Georgia botched the ensuing kickoff return and had to start from its 3-yard line. Incredibly, the Dawgs drove 97 yards in nine plays and scored on a nine-yard pass from Matthew Stafford to Mohamed Massaquoi to go up 20-7 with nine seconds left to intermission.

Georgia appeared ready to put the game out of reach when it drove to the Vol 6-yard line in the third quarter. Vol safety Eric Berry intercepted in the end zone, however, and returned the ball 54 yards to the Bulldog 46-yard line. This time Stephens hit Lucas Taylor with a 13-yard pass to cap a seven-play drive and narrow the gap to 20-14.

Georgia's Blair Walsh, who hit field goals of 34 and 20 yards in the first half, banged home a 41-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter to push the lead to 23-14. After a three-and-out by Tennessee, Georgia launched a mind-boggling 17-play, 76-yard drive that consumed 10 minutes and 55 seconds of clock time and culminated in a 28-yard Walsh field goal that secured the final margin with just 2:49 to play.

While the offense was stopping itself and the defense was failing to stop Georgia on third down, both of Tennessee's units were piling up penalties. The Vols were flagged 10 times for 97 yards, season highs in both categories.

Fulmer noted that the Bulldogs benefited greatly from Vol penalties and mistakes, adding: "They didn't need any help, and we helped 'em a lot. That was very disappointing."

Georgia, now 5-1 overall and 2-1 in SEC play, hosts Vanderbilt next Saturday with first place in the Eastern Division at stake. Tennessee, now 2-4 overall and 0-3 in league play, will try to rebound against Mississippi State Saturday night in Knoxville.

Stafford completed 25 of 36 passes for 310 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Massaquoi caught five balls for 105 yards and A.J. Green seven for 53 yards. Star tailback Knowshon Moreno was generally held in check, needing 27 carries to gain 101 rushing yards.

Montario Hardesty rushed six times for 20 yards to pace Tennessee. Arian Foster added three carries for 3 yards and Lennon Creer two carries for 2 yards. Gerald Jones paced the receivers with 68 yards on four catches.

A bright spot for the Vols was punter Britton Colquitt. Seeing his first action of 2008 following a five-game disciplinary suspension, he punted six times for a 48-yard average.

Given how utterly inept Tennessee's offense is, Colquitt could be a busy man in the weeks to come.

"I believe our guys played hard," Fulmer said, "but we've got to do something offensively to help ourselves. I'm not 100 percent sure what it is, but we'll find something."

They'd better.

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