Halftime analysis: Seven thoughts

semerson@macon.comOctober 5, 2013 

Georgia Tennessee Football

Georgia's Keith Marshall (4) is helped off the field after being injured in the first quarter of Saturday's game at Tennessee.

WADE PAYNE — AP

Seven notes, thoughts or observations as No. 6 Georgia leads Tennessee 17-3 at halftime.

1. The Keith Marshall injury casts a pall around an otherwise good, and expected, score for Georgia. There's no official word yet, but the Bulldogs have seen this before. It's a right knee injury, and very likely a serious one. It's such a tough injury for Marshall on several levels. This was going to be his game to star, but he leaves after just five carries for 33 yards. And if it is a long-term injury, it comes in the fifth game, after the cut-off for a medical redshirt. Marshall could be seen crying on the training table, and his father Warren accompanied him as he was carted to the locker room. Just a tough scene.

2. So what does Georgia do now without Marshall and Todd Gurley. The good news it has a cushion in this game. J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas can carry it through the rest of the way here, and it also bears watching whether A.J. Turman - who is on the travel roster - has his redshirt burned. But now it makes Gurley's sprained ankle loom even larger. Georgia has to hope that ankle is feeling much better pretty soon.

3. The reason Georgia can withstand the tailback injuries? Aaron Murray and the passing game, and Tennessee's defense, against the pass and the run. Murray is having one of his usual games (12-for-19 for 119 yards and two touchdowns), and Georgia is averaging 4.8 yards per rush. The Volunteers are just not a very good team, and even if this gets closer in the second half, you get the feeling the Bulldogs can wrest control with their passing game when they really decide to. But the Bulldogs seemed to come in with a more conservative gameplan, and if the Vols don't show more life on offense, Georgia can afford to stay with the plan.

4. The feeling here was Georgia's defense needed to show improvement in this game, and so far it has. Tennessee is only 3-for-8 on third downs, a big improvement over last week for Georgia's defense. The Bulldogs have yielded 127 yards, almost evenly split between the run and pass. It hasn't been a perfect performance, and Tennessee left points on the board when it couldn't punch it in from inside its 10. Plus, quarterback Justin Worley and the Vols just aren't a good offense. Still, credit to Todd Grantham and his defense: They're getting the job done, albeit against a much weaker opponent.

5. Marshall Morgan is a new man this year. There's no other way to put it. His 56-yarder was the longest in Neyland Stadium history, and the longest ever against Tennessee. It was Morgan's career-high, beating the 55-yarder he made last week. Last year Morgan was 8-for-14 on field goals, including 2-for-4 beyond 50 yards.

6. More reminders for how young Georgia is on defense: Freshmen Quincy Mauger and Shaq Wiggins got their first career starts today, making it five true freshmen who have started this season. (Tray Matthews, Brendan Langley and Leonard Floyd were the others. Mauger started at free safety, as expected, but Corey Moore was the free safety on several third-down plays. Josh Harvey-Clemons has spent most of the time at the star. Georgia is withstanding the injury bug on defense, with both Tray Matthews and Connor Norman out.

7. Defensive end Ray Drew with his second sack in as many weeks. A few weeks ago Drew had a great quote analyzing his career: "Some of the best food comes out of the crock pot. It has to sit and melt for awhile. I guess you could say I've been on the crock pot plan." Well, the crock pot is cooking.

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