Georgia caps perfect SEC season with 41-17 win over Tennessee, elite defense leads way

Georgia inside linebacker Nakobe Dean (17) during the Bulldogs' game with Tennessee in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Georgia football program made history on Saturday night, wrapping up its first unbeaten SEC season and 10-0 start since 1982 with the win at Tennessee.

The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs pulled away for a 41-17 victory over the Vols on Saturday night at Neyland Stadium, running their record to 10-0 overall and 8-0 in SEC play.

The Georgia defense proved itself a championship unit against a UT team that entered the night averaging more than 38 points per game.

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Cornerback Derion Kendrick came up with the game-changing play, an interception with the score tied 10-10 that led to the go-ahead touchdown.

That was all the momentum the defense needed. Three times, the Vols’ were stopped on fourth down plays in UGA territory, their quarterbacks sacked 6 times.

The Bulldogs’ offense piled up 487 yards, once again, showing it was good enough to win.

The Georgia football schedule features two forgiving games to finish out the regular season:

• at home against Charleston Southern (3-6)

• on the road at Georgia Tech (3-7)

The Bulldogs will play in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4 in Atlanta against the SEC West Division champ, Alabama the most likely of the teams still eligible.

Time will tell if the Bulldogs are good enough to win what would be their first SEC Championship Game since four seasons ago, when they defeated Auburn en route to a College Football Playoff win over Oklahoma and runner-up finish to the Tide.

Georgia would have been a 2-point favorite over Alabama had the teams met on Saturday, according to BetOnline (and -6 over Ohio State).

This Georgia football team, however, is taking things one step at a time. The Big Orange was the assignment on Saturday afternoon in Knoxville.

The pregame narrative was that Tennessee would have to make Smart “uncomfortable” enough to abandon his ground-and-pound offense.

The Georgia defense was simply not going to allow that to happen after the first quarter.

The Vols, to their credit, made things interesting for one quarter at least.

Tennessee’s fast-break image was on display at the onset, the Vols racing down the field on their first possession to become the first Georgia opponent to score a touchdown on the opening drive.

Tennessee piled up 159 yards in the first quarter, leading 10-7 entering the second quarter with the Bulldogs a half-step off at each turn.

But then Smart’s defense did what smart (Smart?) defenses do; adjusting, finding the right personnel, and locking down.

RELATED: Georgia football bests Tennessee

The Vols did not score another touchdown until there was 3:38 left to play, becoming the first team to put more than 13 points on the board against UGA this season.

Georgia’s offense, meanwhile, was doing just enough to keep the chains moving as James Cook piled up the yard and highlights.

Cook recorded his second career 100-yard game, rushing for 104 yards and 2 touchdowns on 10 carries, while also catching 3 passes for 43 yards and a touchdown.

Smart stuck with Stetson Bennett under center, the diminutive quarterback 17-fo-29 passing for 213 yards with a touchdown. Bennett also rushed 6 times for 58 yards and a TD but was sacked 2 times for -18 yards.

It wasn’t an elite passing performance, but it didn’t have to be.

Georgia has a championship defense, and on Saturday night and for now, that appears to be good enough.

UGA News

NextRECAP: Georgia 41, Tennessee 17, Bulldogs dominate on Rocky Top
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