Vols put Dawg whuppin' on UGA

On an overcast day at Neyland Stadium the sun finally shined on Tennessee's beleaguered quarterback - figuratively, if not literally.

Jonathan Crompton completed 20 of 27 passes for a career-best 310 yards and four touchdowns in leading the Vols to a shocking 45-19 defeat of the Georgia Bulldogs. Head coach Lane Kiffin, who has consistently defended his much-criticized QB, wasn't surprised.

"The last three games combined I believe he's thrown eight touchdowns with just two interceptions," the head man said on his post-game show. "That's winning football. It's good to see him making good decisions. He made great decisions all day."

Crompton's favorite target, Gerald Jones, registered five catches for a career-best 105 yards and two touchdowns. Denarius Moore added four catches for 73 yards, including a tackle-breaking 33-yard TD play. Tight end Luke Stocker also had a big day, reeling in four passes for 68 yards.

A third-quarter Crompton pass that bounced off Stocker's hands was intercepted and returned 28 yards for a Georgia touchdown by Bacarri Rambo, narrowing the gap to 24-19. Crompton bounced back, however, guiding three TD drives to put the game out of reach.

The first drive was capped by a 39-yard Montario Hardesty touchdown burst that padded the lead to 31-19 with 4:06 left in the third quarter. The second drive covered 62 yards in just three plays, concluding with a 51-yard strike to Jones that widened the gap to 38-19 with 59 seconds left in the period. The final scoring drive was a two-play, 14-yarder following a 48-yard mid-air fumble return by Eric Berry. Bryce Brown got the TD on a one-yard run.

Tennessee (3-3 overall, 1-2 SEC) finished with 472 yards of total offense. The Vols converted 5 of 11 third-down plays and kept the ball for 34:05. Georgia (3-3, 2-2) had the ball just 25:55.

The final score doesn't begin to tell how well Tennessee's defense played. Georgia's touchdowns came on a 100-yard kickoff return by Brandon Boykin and the interception return by Rambo. Georgia also blocked a Vol punt through the end zone for a safety. The only points scored while UT's defense was on the field came on a 52-yard field goal by Blair Walsh.

Incredibly, the Vol defense did not allow Georgia to advance beyond the UT 34-yard line all game. In addition, it limited the Dawgs to 241 yards of total offense and 3 of 13 third-down conversions.

Like Crompton, Tennessee's much-maligned receiving corps finally got to hear some cheers. After dropping six balls in last weekend's loss to Auburn, the wideouts didn't drop a ball vs. Georgia. That gave Crompton all of the help he needed.

"As I've said all along, we've got to make plays for him," Kiffin said. "You saw that today. You saw Denarius make a play, taking a short pass 33 yards for a touchdown. You saw Gerald make some guys miss and make some plays. Same with Stocker. When you do that, it helps the quarterback out."

Georgia's defensive game plan was simple: Crowd the line of scrimmage to stop Hardesty, who came in as the SEC's leading rusher at 115 yards per game. The plan failed miserably. Hardesty still picked up 97 yards on 20 carries, and the focus on him enabled Tennessee's passing game to flourish.

"Coming in, they had to be dedicated to stopping the run," Kiffin said. "Any of us would've done that. Hardesty was the leading rusher in the SEC and our passing game had been shaky.

"We had to open them up a little bit."

Tennessee opened up the Bulldogs, all right. And, in the process, it closed the first half of its schedule with a resounding victory.


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