4:51 left in third quarter, Georgia leads 20-6
The Bulldogs have officially taken control of this game.
And Aaron Murray is passing much sharper now.
A lot of momentum shifted in the span of three plays: Tennessee thought it had a long touchdown catch-and-run by Marlin Lane, but it was over-ruled on replay, forcing a punt. That was downed at the 7, but Georgia went for the jugular right away, and Murray hit a streaking Malcolm Mitchell for what ended up being a 71-yard pass play.
Two plays later, Crowell ran it in from 17 yards out.
There's still a lot of time left, and keep in mind that Tennessee's offense has moved the ball well enough to attempt three field goals. I'm curious now whether its first two drives this half were the result of good Georgia adjustments - basically pulling back to key on the pass - or the Vols rediscover their passing game.
8:19 left in third quarter, Georgia takes 13-6 lead
It still hasn't been pretty for the Bulldogs yet, but they have the game's first touchdown, and in this one that might qualify for a commanding lead.
Taking advantage of great field position, and a third-down defensive holding call, Georgia punched it in on a 2-yard run by Isaiah Crowell. (Zander Ogletree was the fullback blocking on the play.)
It wasn't a smooth drive for Georgia. But it started with a good Crowell run, and Murray stood in there against pressure for a good first-down completion to Orson Charles.
Now it's back up to the Bulldog defense, which needs to be able to hold Tyler Bray in check. (We're all but counting out the Tennessee running game now, especially if Tauren Poole doesn't return from injury.)
Halftime, score is 6-6
Georgia's defense continues to be susceptible to Tyler Bray's passing this game. The Tennessee quarterback had 160 passing yards in the half, although a lack of tackling on a key play was the main reason the Vols were able to tie it on a field goal on the final play of the half.
Tennessee had first-and-25 after a personal foul penalty, but Bray hit Marlin Lane on a short screen, and Lane managed to scamper 27 yards for the first down. Lane didn't have that much space, but Georgia's defense didn't have the swarm on the ball-carrier it's had in previous games.
The Vols will get the ball to start the second half. Georgia's defense hasn't forced a punt yet, with all three Vol drives ending on a field goal attempt. The Bulldogs need to make some good adjustments at the half to keep Bray in check - and the main culprit, in my opinion, is the lack of a good pass rush. Of course, without Cornelius Washington how much of that will change?
As for the Georgia offense, my thoughts on that are immediately below.
1:44 left in second quarter, Georgia re-takes lead, 6-3
Aaron Murray doesn't have any interceptions so far, after throwing three last week. But I would go so far as to say he's actually played worse this week.
Murray just hasn't been sharp on his passes. Even on a 43-yard completion to Malcolm Mitchell, which set up the field goal just now, Murray would have had a touchdown pass if he had made a better throw. Mitchell had his man beat badly, but had to slow down and then make the catch in traffic.
And by the way, Mitchell continues to show a great knack for making catches with defenders around him.
The good news for Murray and Georgia is he hasn't turned it over yet. And he's also run the ball well. But until Isaiah Crowell and the running game gets going, Murray needs to get a better handle on his throws in order for Georgia to win.
6:46 left in second quarter, Tennessee ties it at 3-3
Each team has had the ball twice, and we're more than halfway through the first half. So while the scoreboard may indicate a good defensive game, it's really been more in the middle.
Georgia's defense has now yielded 123 yards, looking vulnerable for the first time since the South Carolina loss. But it has managed to hold the Vols to one short field goal, thanks mostly to its ability to stop the run.
Of course the Vols aren't a good running team, so that probably won't change. But it will be up to the Bulldogs to get a better pass rush, or else Tyler Bray and Tennessee will still be able to move the ball downfield.
Georgia's offense, meantime, is having trouble getting a consistent passing attack. Aaron Murray has missed on several throws, including a couple over the middle that could have converted on third downs.
2:44 left in first quarter, Georgia leads 3-0
Both teams have had long opening drives, but only Georgia's resulted in points.
Tennessee's Michael Palady missed a 51-yard field goal, as Georgia's defense held. Credit for that goes to Mike Gilliard, who came up on first down and made a tackle about five yards behind the line. Actually Chase Vasser was the first there but couldn't wrap up the tackler, but Gilliard joined in and stripped the ball, but Tennessee recovered.
Amarlo Herrera also had some good plays on that drive, and Christian Robinson was on coverage for Tyler Bray's third-down incompletion that forced the field goal try.
Georgia's secondary had very good coverage on that drive, with Bray having to do a lot of checking down. The problem for Georgia is Bray had a lot of time to check down, thanks to the lack of a consistent pass rush. The first drive showed how much they may miss Cornelius Washington.
8:47 left in first quarter, Georgia takes a 3-0 lead
Whew, I actually have to take a minute to digest everything that just happened on Georgia's first drive. Let's see, what stands out the most:
- Branden Smith finally playing offense this year, catching a pass and rushing twice?
- Mark Richt electing to go for it twice on fourth down? And getting it?
- Blair Walsh making a 35-yard field goal, after his recent struggles.
By going for it twice, Richt was showing he wanted to let it ride and felt very confident with his gameplan. They wanted to score on that drive, and badly.
The use of Smith is probably in place of Brandon Boykin, who has loose teeth. I predicted this week on the chat that we may see Smith now, as the coaches try to avoid having Boykin play too much.
And the use of Smith is confusing: When he first went in and caught a pass, the press-box announcer called it a reception by Isaiah Crowell. Apparently someone alerted him to watch the dreadlocks, or lack thereof.
7:02 p.m.: OK, actual defensive starters announced
Here in the press box they've amended Georgia's depth chart on several fronts:
- Chase Vasser is announced as one starter at outside linebacker, the replacement for Cornelius Washington. Vasser was my guess when the week began. But that still doesn't guarantee him actually starting and playing most of the game.
- Dallas Lee is the starter at left guard with Chris Burnette at right guard. Kenarious Gates is out of the lineup. I'll be interested to see if they pay Gates a lot to give the line some rest as the game goes on.
6:40 p.m.: Defensive "starters" announced
If you go by the pregame announcements, the replacement for Cornelius Washington will be Reuben Faloughi ... and Chase Vasser ... with Jarvis Jones not starting.
That's probably why it won't be a good idea to go by the pregame announcements.
Jones was out there warming up, so the expectation is Georgia submitting a starting lineup that said Faloughi or Vasser, and Tennessee accidentally listed both and left off Jones, perhaps Georgia's best defensive player.
And besides that, Georgia's announced starters often haven't corresponded with the actual ones this season.
Christian Robinson was also announced as one of the starters at inside linebacker, along with Mike Gilliard. Robinson played off the bench last week after sitting the previous two games with a foot injury.
5:40 p.m.: Travel roster released
I didn't see anything very surprising. Ken Malcome, who is basically the fifth-string tailback, is on the trip, which probably means the staff is still a bit worried about Richard Samuel's health. (But Samuel is on the trip too.)
Chris Burnette, as expected, made the trip. He may even start at right guard, so we'll see.
Damian Swann, the freshman cornerback who missed the past two games, is on the trip as well.
Receiver Rantavious Wooten was ruled out days ago with his a concussion. He's not here.
Knoxville, Tenn. - Checking in from the press box here at Neyland Stadium. It was a beautiful day when I left Athens early this morning, and it was a beautiful drive through the mountains to get here.
As I type this, Florida is getting drubbed at LSU, as expected. But South Carolina looked good with new quarterback Connor Shaw, routing Kentucky. It wasn't perhaps the best measuring stick for Shaw and the Gamecocks, however.
Talking to a few people the last few minutes, the growing consensus is Georgia is the favorite in the East because of its schedule. Its hopes would be dealt a big blow with a loss tonight, but the Bulldogs could probably make up for it with a loss to Florida - or they could win tonight, lose to Florida and still end up winning the division.
Its all still a bunch of chatter, since there's so much football to be played. Plus we still don't have a firm handle on just how good Georgia is, especially after watching Mississippi State struggle to beat UAB today.
Anyway, the Bulldogs are taking the field now for pregame warmups. As always we'll bring you updates in this space throughout the game, along with some analysis.