D’Andre Swift ran for two touchdowns, including a late 14-yarder to ice the game, and No. 2 Georgia used dominant defense to overcome a sluggish offensive start in a 38-12 win over Tennessee on Saturday.
Freshman quarterback Justin Fields scored on runs of 12 and 15 yards, and Isaac Nauta had a 31-yard touchdown on a fumble return. The Bulldogs led by only 12 points early in the final quarter before pulling away.
Georgia (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) scored touchdowns on its last drive of the first half and opening possession after halftime but otherwise couldn’t maintain momentum.
Jake Fromm completed 16 of 22 passes for 185 yards while sharing time with Fields.
Tennessee (2-3, 0-2) was held to 209 yards. The Vols finally scored on Jarrett Guarantano’s 37-yard pass to Josh Palmer late in the third quarter. Guarantano’s 35-yard scoring pass to Ty Chandler about four minutes into the final quarter cut Georgia’s lead to 24-12.
Georgia answered with the 75-yard drive capped by Swift’s strong 14-yard scoring run. The Bulldogs took advantage of Tennessee’s first turnover, a fumble by Jeremy Banks, to stretch the lead on Fields’ 15-yard scoring run.
The loss extended Tennessee’s school-record losing streak in conference games to 11 since a 63-37 win over Missouri on Nov. 19, 2016.
Guarantano, who left last week’s loss to Florida after taking a hit to the left knee, wore a brace on the knee while completing 13 of 21 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
The Vols failed on 2-point conversions after each touchdown.
The bad news for Georgia’s misfiring offense was two first-half fumbles by Fromm. The good news is the first fumble, forced by a hit from linebacker Darrell Taylor, was returned 31 yards by Nauta for a touchdown to cap the Bulldogs’ opening drive.
Fromm fumbled again in the second quarter, and center Lamont Gaillard’s recovery led to a 43-yard field goal by Ricardo Blankenship.
Finally, late in the half, Fromm and Fields shared time on a 12-play touchdown drive that included Brian Herrien’s 6-yard run on a fourth-down play from the Tennessee 32. Swift scored easily from the 1 on a pitch from Fromm with only 30 seconds remaining in the half for a 17-0 lead.
Swift had 50 yards rushing in Georgia’s balanced running attack led by Elijah Holyfield’s 16 carries for 78 yards.
Tennessee receiver Marquez Callaway did not return after a hard hit on his 13-yard catch early in the second half.
An official, field judge Sean Petty, was carted off the field after he suffered a left leg injury on Swift’s scoring run late in the game.
Tennessee: A sign of improvement: After six turnovers last week against Florida and a combined eight the last two weeks, the Vols had no turnovers before Banks’ fumble was recovered by Georgia’s Juwan Taylor with 3:24 remaining. Another reason for encouragement was the comeback attempt which cut the deficit to 12 points early in the final quarter before fading.
Georgia: There is more fine-tuning to be done on offense, but the Bulldogs showed improvement in their run defense — a priority for the week for coach Kirby Smart. After giving up 172 yards on the ground in last week’s 43-29 win at Missouri, Georgia held Tennessee to 66 yards rushing, including 30 yards on 12 carries in the first half.
LEGEND VS LEGEND
In a matchup of team greats, Georgia’s Herschel Walker accompanied the team on its pregame Dawg Walk into the stadium and led a pregame cheer on the field. Meanwhile, former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning was on the Tennessee sideline.
Tennessee: Following a week off, the Vols face another ranked SEC team when they visit No. 10 Auburn on Oct. 13. Tennessee plays No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 20.
Georgia: The Bulldogs play their fourth game against a team from the state of Tennessee when Vanderbilt visits Sanford Stadium next Saturday. Georgia already has home wins over Austin Peay and Middle Tennessee State.
Source: The Associated Press