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Bulldogs defeat Volunteers, 38-12

Georgia-Tennessee
Photo: John Kelley/UGA

ATHENS, Ga. – After entering the contest averaging 205 yards on the ground each game this season, the Tennessee Volunteers were limited to 66 rushing yards by the Georgia Bulldogs, who produced five rushing touchdowns on their way to a 38-12 victory in Sanford Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Bulldog (5-0, 3-0) defense was led by junior J.R. Reed, senior D’Andre Walker and sophomore Monty Rice, with six and five tackles apiece. Walker registered a forced fumble, his third on the year, and tacked on another sack, one of four for the team leader in both categories.

While six different Georgia receivers tallied 190 yards, the Bulldog backfield balanced the attack with a total of 251 yards, led by junior tailback Elijah Holyfield with 78 yards on 16 carries. Sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm directed the air attack, finishing 16-for-22 with 185 yards. Sophomore tailback D’Andre Swift and freshman quarterback Justin Fields ran for two touchdowns apiece as the Bulldogs brought its average point production per game to 43.2.

“When we had to play well in the second half, we challenged (Tennessee),” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “It’s big when you answer a challenge, but it shouldn’t have to come to that. We preach good habits, competitiveness, physicality.”

On 3rd-and-9 in the first quarter, Tennessee (2-3, 0-2) redshirt junior linebacker Darrell Taylor forced the ball out of Fromm’s hands, but the fumble found junior tight end Isaac Nauta, who ran for a 31-yard touchdown. The score marked the third straight conference contest the Bulldogs have opened the game with points from a fumble recovery.

Of the Volunteers’ three offensive drives in the first quarter, they were limited to two three-and-outs by the Georgia defense.

At the 11: 57 mark in the second quarter, junior place kicker Rodrigo Blankenship drilled a 43-yard field goal for the 10-0 lead.

With a little over seven minutes remaining the half, the Bulldog defense stuffed the Tennessee offensive attack with back-to-back tackles for a loss from Walker and senior inside linebacker Keyon Richardson, returning possession to the Bulldog offense, who produced a 12-play, 70-yard drive to wind down the opening half.

Fields jumpstarted the drive, contributing a 13-yard run, and Fromm continued it, connecting with senior wide receiver Riley Ridley and sophomore wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman for 12 yards apiece. Swift finalized the 17-0 margin headed into halftime with a 1-yard run pitched from Fromm, sealed by a Blankenship PAT.

Back from intermission, Georgia resumed on offense with a 10-play, 75-yard drive, executed with Fromm completions to four different receivers and tight ends: senior wide receiver Terry Godwin, Nauta, junior wide receiver Mecole Hardman and junior tight end Charlie Woerner. Fields sealed the drive with an elevated horizontal dive into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown. A Blankenship chip for the extra point totaled 24 points for the Bulldogs.

The next drive, Tennessee tacked on a 37-yard touchdown from redshirt sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano to Josh Palmer, but a defensive stand in the end zone from senior defensive back Deandre Baker prevented the two-point conversion.

The Volunteers added one more trip to the end zone with a 11:10 remaining in the game on a Guarantano pass to Ty Chandler but failed to complete a second attempt at a two-point conversion for the 24-12 margin.

The Bulldog offense responded by eating 7:39 off the clock on 13 plays for 75 yards. Thirty yards from senior tailback Brian Herrien presented Swift with 14 yards to break several Volunteers tackles on his way to a touchdown and the 31-12 advantage.

Walker forced his third fumble of the season with 3:24 remaining in the game. Senior linebacker Juwan Taylor recovered the fumble, setting up a 2-play, 31-yard offensive surge from the Bulldogs with Fields in the pocket. First, a Fields block opened a 16-yard run for Swift. The next play, Fields took the ball himself for his second rushing touchdown of the game and third of the season for the 38-12 final, complete with a Blankenship PAT.

Up next, the Bulldogs welcome the Vanderbilt Commodores to Sanford Stadium on Saturday, October 6.

POST-GAME NOTES

*Odd First Points: Junior TE Isaac Nautascooped up a Jake Frommfumble and ran it 31 yards for a touchdown on a fumble advance to give Georgia a 7-0 edge at the 8:52 mark in the first period. This marks the third consecutive SEC game that the Bulldogs have scored their first touchdown on a return following a fumble (Juwan Taylor@ South Carolina; Tyson Campbell@ Missouri).

The Bulldogs’ second touchdown came on a 12-play, 70-yard drive that took 5:07 at the end of the second quarter. Sophomore TB D’Andre Swiftcapped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown, which was his team-leading third touchdown of 2018. Georgia also converted a 4th-and-1 on the scoring drive. Georgia had 238 total yards on 39 plays in the first half. Junior TB Elijah Holyfieldled the Bulldogs with 10 carries for 45 yards.

*Getting Defensive: For the second time this year, Georgia held a team scoreless in the first half after also blanking Austin Peay and the defense now has a total of 11 scoreless quarters this season. The Bulldogs kept the Volunteers to 68 yards (30 rushing, 38 passing) on 22 plays and only three first downs with no Red Zone appearances. In the first period, Georgia held Tennessee to just 42 yards (24, 18) and a single first down.

Senior OLB D’Andre Walkerled the Bulldogs with four stops, including a sack. In fact, Walker has 12 tackles on the year with five tackles for loss and four sacks. Junior J.R. Reedalso had four stops in the first half.

*Blankenship Boots It: Junior PK Rodrigo Blankenshipconnected on 43-yard field goal to put Georgia up 10-0. He is 5-for-6 from 40+ this year (more makes from that distance this season than any other in his career) and 13-of-19 from that distance in his career. All four of Blankenship’s kickoffs on Saturday were also touchbacks.

*For Starters: Junior DB Tyrique McGhee made his third career start and first since the 2017 Tennessee game. FreshmanCade Mays started at RG in place of the injured Ben Cleveland. This was his second career start after getting the nod at LT versus Middle Tennessee State while sophomore Andrew Thomassat out with an injury.

Also of note, senior TE and Tennessee native Jackson Harrisplayed for the first time since recovering from a leg injury.

*Captains: Today’s captains are senior Jonathan Ledbetter, juniors J.R. Reedand sophomore Jake Fromm.

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