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Georgia football winners and losers following 44-21 win over Tennessee

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Georgia football winners and losers following 44-21 win over Tennessee

Winner: Jack Podlesny

The Georgia kicker had a problem. He had his first career miss last week from Auburn on a 43-yard attempt from the right hash mark. So Podlesny reached out to his close friend, former Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship.

“He responded immediately, helped me and obviously it worked out,” Podlesny said after the game.

Whatever Blankenship told the redshirt sophomore kicker clearly worked as he connected on all three field goals he attempted against Tennessee. He connected on field-goal attempts of 47, 34 and 51 yards.

That final field goal was the longest make by a Georgia kicker since Blankenship hit a 53-yarder against Vanderbilt in 2018.

While Kirby Smart didn’t like having to use Podlesny as often as he did on Saturday, the Georgia coach is clearly confident in his new kicker.

“I knew what he could do because we had the longest field-goal competition I’ve ever seen in my life,” Smart said. “So I knew what he could do. He won that competition. He was tried and tested and battle-tested long before he ever hit that field tonight. He’s got a strong leg.”

On the season, Podlesny is now seven of eight on his field goal attempts, while making all 11 of his extra points so far. But the kicker from St. Simons, Ga., isn’t resting easy just yet.

Blankenship helped teach him that he can’t.

“Rodrigo loves the term ‘walk-on mentality,’ ” Podlesny said. “It’s just that. It’s realizing, I might be a nobody, but I’ve got to come to compete every day.”

Loser: Dan Mullen

The Florida head coach is a loser in two different ways. First, his team lost 41-38 to Texas A&M after holding a 28-17 lead in the second half.

But the real reason the Florida head coach lands here is because of what he said after the fact.

“I know our governor passed that rule, so certainly, hopefully, the university administration decides to let us pack The Swamp for LSU next week,” Mullen said. “One hundred percent because that crowd was a major factor in the game. So I certainly hope our university administration follows the governor.”

Mullen is alluding to the decision by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to lift COVID-19 restrictions in the state, which allows stadiums around Florida to operate at full capacity if they decide to do so.

To lose one game is a tough look, especially when Florida was a touchdown favorite. But to then demand you have a full stadium — a week after Florida did not sell all of its tickets for a home game against South Carolina with a limited capacity — because the crowd noise affected your team is just weak. And that’s before even going into the ethical question of whether or not 90,000 fans should pack a stadium in the middle of a pandemic.

As for Georgia’s game against Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., on Nov. 7, the city announced that there would be a limited crowd in attendance for the game.

Winner: Channing Tindall

Georgia is so clearly loaded at the inside linebacker position. Monty Rice led Georgia in tackles on Saturday, while also adding a scoop and score touchdown. Nakobe Dean has so far lived up to his hyped status in his sophomore season. Add in continued growth from junior Quay Walker and the Georgia inside linebacker room has looked incredibly strong to start the season.

That was all before Tindall stepped onto the field in the fourth quarter against Tennessee. And he proceeded to continue to wreck the Volunteers, as he racked up four tackles and two sacks in his brief time on the field.

“Nobody in our room sucks,” Rice said after the win. Everybody else in our room can go somewhere else and be a starter. You saw Channing at the end of that game, that’s the closest thing I’ve seen to Roquan Smith since he left.”

Tindall has been a key special teams player for the Bulldogs as well as occasionally finding his way onto the field. With his effort late in the game against Tennessee, Georgia might need to find more ways to get him onto the field if he’s going to continue to be that productive.

“Probably all of them, if they’re fortunate not to have major injuries, will be playing on Sundays, ” Rice said.

Loser: Freshman fumbles

Jermaine Burton and Kendall Milton both made some big plays for Georgia on Saturday. Burton ripped off a 43-yard run for the Bulldogs while also adding two receptions for 26 yards.

Milton meanwhile led the Bulldogs in rushing with 56 yards. And he only needed eight carries to do it. Milton also had one physical run that gave off major shades of Nick Chubb.

These are both positive signs for the two freshman playmakers. But they also had their freshman moments as well in the win.

Both Burton and Milton had fumbles on Saturday. Burton was fortunate the Trey Hill came up the field and recovered his gaff to prevent a turnover. Milton wasn’t quite as lucky on his fumble at the end of the game that prevented Georgia from hanging 50 on the Volunteers.

“I think we all saw that one run, he took two hits and they were ready to blow the whistle and he got seven more yards after the two hits,” Smart said. “He’s probably the type of back that he gets better as he gets more carries and we’ve got to do a good job of trying to balance that out.

“Ultimately he’s got to protect the ball. He’s got a target on his chest now where he’s got to protect the ball.”

Both freshmen have made positive impacts so far. And if they can learn to take care of the football, they’ll likely continue to become even bigger parts of the Georgia offense in the weeks to come.

Winner: The Georgia defensive line and edge rushers

All week there was talk about how the Tennessee offensive line would look and hold up against the Georgia defense. The Volunteers started four former 5-star prospects and a sixth-year center.

And the Georgia defensive front just dominated them all night. In both the running game and when the Volunteers dropped back to pass.

Tennessee, which came into the game ranking second in the SEC in rushing, finished with -1 yards on 27 carries. The two-headed tandem of Ty Chandler and Eric Gray, combined for 36 yards on 18 carries. The week before against Missouri, the two ran for 195 yards.

When the Volunteers dropped back to pass in the second half, things didn’t go much better. Jarrett Guaranton was sacked five times. He had the ball stripped from his hands three different times.

Perhaps the sweetest moment for Georgia fans came when Adam Anderson raced past former Georgia offensive lineman Cade Mays to wrap-up Guarantano. Azeez Ojualri, who had his own strip sack, was able to poke the ball from his hands.

The Bulldogs face another big offensive line in Alabama this week. It will be another fun watch to see how they attack this Alabama offense

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