Second-Half Rally Pushes #3 Georgia Past #12 Tennessee

Vols OLB Kivon Bennett / Credit: UT Athletics

ATHENS, Ga. – Despite leading third-ranked Georgia at halftime Saturday, the 12th-ranked Tennessee football team fell short of pulling off the upset, falling by a score of 44-21 at Sanford Stadium.

Georgia (3-0) held Tennessee scoreless and forced three turnovers in the second half to snap the Vols’ eight-game win streak.

The Vols (2-1) return to action Saturday when they host Kentucky at Neyland Stadium at noon ET. Tickets remain available at AllVols.com.

Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano threw a pair of touchdown passes to Josh Palmer Saturday. Sophomore tailback Eric Gray was Tennessee’s leading rusher and receiver, finishing with career-highs in receptions (8) and receiving yards (54).

Defensively, preseason All-SEC linebacker Henry To’o To’o led the Big Orange with 11 tackles, including two for loss.

The day began on a high note for Tennessee, which scored in the game’s first minute. On Georgia’s second play from scrimmage, a wild shotgun snap from the UGA 30-yard line sailed over quarterback Stetson Bennett IV’s head. As pursuing players from both teams dove into the end zone, Vols linebacker Kivon Bennett pounced on the ball for UT’s second defensive touchdown of the season.

The Bulldogs answered midway through the first quarter when a 29-yard pass from Bennett to Kenny McIntosh set up a one-yard touchdown run by Zamir White.

Bennett orchestrated a 12-play, 95-yard scoring drive in the second quarter to give Georgia its first lead of the day. He capped the go-ahead drive with an eight-yard, diving TD scramble.

Tennessee evened the score at 14-14 following a big, fourth-down stop by its defense. The Vols took over at the UGA 36-yard line, and immediately cashed in with a 36-yard touchdown toss from Guarantano to Palmer with 6:40 remaining in the first half.

Less than two minutes later, Georgia used a 47-yard field goal to briefly retake the lead, 17-14.

On the ensuing Tennessee drive, Guarantano found Palmer again, perfectly placing a 27-yard throw inside the right end-zone boundary. The senior duo’s second scoring connection of the game gave Tennessee a 21-17 edge. It also marked Palmer’s third career TD catch of 25 yards or longer in Sanford Stadium.

Georgia, however, methodically marched to the goal line on its final drive of the first half. Undaunted, the Volunteers defense stuffed the Bulldogs on both third and fourth down from the one-yard line, bolstering Tennessee’s momentum entering halftime.

The Bulldogs outgained the Vols by 82 yards in the first half, but Tennessee won the turnover battle, 1-0, and Guarantano completed 11 of 13 passes for 124 yards and two scores before the break.

After playing turnover-free football through its first five halves of the season, Tennessee turned it over on third down on consecutive possessions early in the third quarter. The Big Orange defense answered the bell both times, holding Georgia to two field goals. But the on-target kicks of 34 and 51 yards by Jack Podlesny put the Bulldogs back on top, 23-21.

Later in the third, a touchdown strike from Bennett to Kearis Jackson in the final minute of the quarter gave Georgia a 30-21 lead. The 62-yard drive pushed the Dogs past the 300-yard mark of total offense.

Georgia continued to extend its lead in the fourth. Bennett finished off a 66-yard scoring drive with his second TD pass of the day, and on the following drive, UGA linebacker Monty Rice stripped Guarantano, recovered the fumble and took it 20 yards to paydirt for the game’s final score.

-UT Athletics

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