Fans from both teams certainly got their money’s worth in Athens, Ga. this past Saturday. The contest between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Tennessee Volunteers saw 60 combined points in the first half, the highest first-half score in the SEC since 2004. Paying attendance was just under 93,000 and no fan dared leave the 51-44 nail-biter before the end. For Georgia, this was a huge win in terms of their season’s direction. They are now on top of the SEC, with wins over Tennessee, Missouri, and Vanderbilt. For Tennessee, this marked the first time UT has ever lost when scoring 40 points or more, a streak which spans 178 games.
Although the spread was 14 in favor of Georgia, most fans (including myself) thought that this was going to be a bigger blowout then that. The UT-UGA rivalry has been a very competitive rivalry both historically and in recent years (21-19-2 in favor of UT all time). Tennessee was either going to come into Athens playing with a chip on their shoulder or playing like they a team that was supposed to lose by 14.
The game was filled with a ton of emotions for both teams. The Bulldogs jumped out to an early lead, and it seemed as if our secondary had a hard time tackling in the open field, which led to two big plays of 50 yards plus for the Bulldogs. The Volunteers answered the call with a pick six, and the Vol fans regained excitement. But the Bulldogs responded, and just like that, the score was 27-10 Georgia. Just as I was starting to worry that I was going to watch the Vols get blown out in Sanford Stadium and have to listen to Georgia fans talk smack the rest of the game, our defense came alive and really stuck it to the Bulldog offense. Two fumbles in Tennessee territory and a botched kickoff return gave the Vols great field position and easy access to points, and we had the lead 30-27 with time running out in the second quarter. Tennessee Quarterback Tyler Bray ended the half by connecting for two touchdown passes, and UT fans were going crazy. We helped the band belt out Rocky Top, and the stadium erupted with cheers from the fans of the Volunteers. But the Bulldogs again responded when called and answered back with a long field goal, and the teams went into the locker room tied at halftime. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric. Fans from both teams alike couldn’t wait to get to the third quarter and see which team would come out with the momentum.
Unfortunately for us, the Bulldogs exploded for 21 points in the third thanks to two touchdown passes by quarterback Aaron Murray. Tennessee managed to put up one score and trailed the Dawgs by 14 going into the fourth quarter. The morale of the Vol fans seemed to go from a game high during halftime to another low eerily similar to the one in the first half when the Bulldogs jumped to a 17-point lead.
But Tennessee struck first in the fourth with a rushing touchdown from running back Rajion Neal. With just under nine minutes remaining, the Vols cut the lead to seven. During the final eight minutes, the Volunteer defense showed some heart and gave our team a chance to even the score, forcing three punts. The offensive execution was slightly off the entire game, and the last eight minutes went like this: Georgia punt, Tennessee gets intercepted. Georgia punt, Tennessee fumble. Georgia punt, Tennessee gets intercepted again. The final score was Georgia 51-44.
After leaving the game, I actually received a few “good games” by Georgia fans, old and young. The fans appreciated the hard-fought game; some even said that the Bulldogs might have stolen a game from us. Of course, I think the entire Volunteer Nation would have wanted us to get a win against Georgia, but this one still doesn’t hurt as much as our loss to Florida two weeks ago.