KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Georgia football passed a test of a different kind Saturday night on Rocky Top, beating Tennessee 43-14.
“That’s the first road game,” Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said. “Where a lot of people will think about Vanderbilt, it just wasn’t that kind of atmosphere.”
The Neyland Stadium crowd was roaring in the second quarter when the Vols took a 14-10 lead, but Jake Fromm managed the noise and managed the game to keep the Bulldogs undefeated (5-0).
“We played physical — I still think we’ve got a lot of areas to improve on, some stupid, undisciplined penalties,” Smart said. “I thought our guys fought through some tough times. When you are resilient on the road and you play hard and you keep coming back and you play a lot of players and you’re able to run for 238 yards and they rush for 70, it helps you.
“We’ve got a big, physical football team. We’ve got to keep getting better. We’ve got to get rid of some of the errors.”
Jake Fromm completed his first seven passes en route to a 24-of-29 passing performance that wen for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns. Fromm’s poise was impressive, and so was his game management. The Bulldogs didn’t have any delay of game penalties or issues with audibles, despite a noise and rowdy first-half crowd.
RUNNING BACKS (A-)
Brian Herrien had an explosive 40-yard run when seven different Tennessee defenders got a hand on him before he finally went down. Herrien led the Bulldogs with 88 yards on his 11 carries and punched in a 1-yard TD run. D’Andre Swift was a dual threat, rushing for 72 yards (17 carries) and reeling in 72 yards worth of catches (4 receptions). Zamir White also ran strong, (7 carries, 57 yards). Slight deduction for the inability to pick up a fourth-and-1.
Lawrence Cager had another big night with a team-high 5 catches for 58 yards and a 3-yard TD catch. Cager, however had an offensive pass interference that negated his TD catch. Tyler Simmons had 3 catches for 26 yards and 3 rushes for 19 yards, but also, a drop. George Pickens had 3 catches for 23 yards and a TD, but also, a false start. Matt Landers had 2 catches for 17 yards but was flagged for a personal foul hands-to-the-face.
OFFENSIVE LINE (A-)
Solid performance, only one hold (Trey Hill) and one false start (Andrew Thomas), and quarterback Jake Fromm had excellent protection. The Bulldogs grinded out 238 yards rushing, averaging 5.8 yards per attempt and punching in two short-yardage touchdowns. Slight deduction for the offensive line’s inability to convert a fourth-and-1 yet again his season.
DEFENSIVE LINE (B)
David Marshall’s late-hit penalty likely cost Georgia four points, as it handed Tennessee a first-and-goal at the 8 instead of what would have been a third-and-10 at the 16. Julian Rochester made his season debut, coming back from offseason ACL surgery. Georgia needed him after 2018 Freshman All-American Jordan Davis was lost for the night with a left ankle injury. Malik Herring a a huge TFL, as did Rochester in his first game back.
It was interesting to see Jim Chaney have his offense attack the linebackers with passes to the tight ends. Azeez Ojulari’s two sacks and Tae Crowder’s 60-yard fumble return for a touchdown was a highlight for this group. Monty Rice had four tackles, Ojulari and Nate McBride had three stops.
Eric Stokes was the plus with his three pass break-ups and fumble-inducing hit on the quarterback. Otherwise, the Georgia secondary looked surprisingly susceptible through the first 16 minutes, particularly when Richard LeCounte bit on a double move and Tennessee struck for a touchdown on a 73-yard pass two Maruqez Callaway. Moments later, Jauan Jennings split LeCounte and J.R. Reed for another touchdown. It was surprising to see a true freshman QB have so much success against the UGA secondary in his first start. LeCounte did record an interception later.
SPECIAL TEAMS (B)
Rodrigo Blankenship remained perfect on the season by connecting on field goals of 50, 34 and 27 yards. Punter Jake Camarda had two kicks, a 53-yarder and an 18-yarder. Blankenship had six of his nine kickoffs go for touchbacks, none were returned. Dominick Blaylock had one punt return for 6 yards
Georgia didn’t look like a championship team until the final stages of the first half, when it appeared the Bulldogs finally turned their offense loose. The Georgia defense appeared on its heels early, most often unable to get to freshman QB Brian Maurer and struggling against Tennessee’s bigger, more physical receivers. Kirby Smart and his staff adjusted at halftime and properly disposed of the Vols in the second half.