ATHENS — A ferocious Georgia defense forced Tennessee into turnovers on its first two drives of the second half, sparking a Bulldogs’ comeback.
The No. 3-ranked Georgia team scored 24 unanswered points to beat the No. 14-ranked Vols 44-21.
Tennessee gained just 71 yards on 39 plays in the second half and finished with minus-1 yards rushing on 27 attempts.
“I think we’ve got a team that adjusts well, so if somebody’s giving us trouble with something, we have answers,” Smart said. “I’m proud of the effort they came out with in the second half with the momentum the defense created.”
It’s the second time in three games the Bulldogs had to come from behind to win, as they also trailed Arkansas 7-5 before rallying for a 37-10 victory.
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett was 16-of-27 passing for 238 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for a touchdown.
“We were shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Bennett, who headed to locker room with his UGA teammates down 21-17 at the half.
Kearis Jackson led UGA with four catches for 91 yards and a touchdown while freshman tailback Kendall Milton paced Bulldogs rushers with 56 yards on 8 carries.
Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano started the day 11-of-13 passing for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Vols led 21-17 at the half.
But the Bulldogs’ defense swarmed, forcing three second-half turnovers as Guarantano finished 23-of-36 for 215 yards with an interception and a fumble.
Georgia was its own worst enemy in the first half.
Trey Hill snapped the ball over Bennett’s head on the Bulldogs’ opening series, leading to a quick 7-0 Vols’ lead.
Georgia also turned the ball over on downs at its own 35 after getting stopped on fourth-and-1, leading to another quick Tennessee touchdown.
Just before the half, tailback Zamir White (22 carries, 50 yards) was stopped on consecutive plays from the 1-yard line on third and fourth-down attempts.
Georgia plays at Alabama next Saturday.
4:05 D’Wan Mathis replaces Stetson Bennett for one play. Bennett appeared to have an equipment issue but returned to action.
Georgia 44, Tennessee 21, 9:56: Monty Rice 17-yard fumble return (Jack Podlesny kick). Key play: Monty Rice forced fumble on Jarrett Guarantano on third-and-5, recovers and scores.
Georgia 37, Tennessee 21, 10:31: Jalen Carter 1-yard reception from Stetson Bennett (Jack Podlesny kick). Drive: 8 plays, 66 yards, 3;45. Key play: Kearis Jackson 33-yard reception to the UT 7.
Georgia out-gained Tennessee 94-14 in third quarter
Georgia outscores Tennessee 13-0 in third quarter
Georgia 30, Tennessee 21 (0:35): Kearis Jackson 21-yard reception from Stetson Bennett (Jack Podlesny kick). Drive: Eight plays, 62 yards, 3:53. Key play: Kearis Jackson 20-yard catch on third-and-10 at UT 44 to UT 24.
Georgia 23, Tennessee 21, (10:11): Jack Podlesny 51-yard field goal. Drive: Four plays, 3 yards, 53 seconds. Key play: Eric Stokes intercepts Jarrett Guarantano at UT 36-yard line.
Tennessee 21, Georgia 20, (12:00): Jack Podlesny 34-yard field goal. Drive: Four plays, minus-1 yard, 2:13. Key play: Azeez Ojulari sack and strip on Jarrett Guarantano at UT 15-yard line.
Stetson Bennett 9-15, 128 yards 1 rushing TD
Jarrett Guarantano 11-13, 124 yards, 2 TDs
Tennessee 11 carries, 19 yards
Kenny McIntosh 6 carries 34 yards
Zamir White 14 carries, 31 yards
Georgia 225 yards, Tennessee 143 yards
UT averaging 8.8 yards on first down, UGA 6.6
Tennessee 21, Georgia 17 (3:08): Josh Palmer 27-yard pass from Jarrett Guarantano (Brett Cimaglia kick); Drive: Six plays, 67 yards, 1:34. Key play: Personal foul on George Pickens, infraction occurred when Pickens on sideline.
George Pickens squirting water on Guarantano on the Georgia bench. pic.twitter.com/T7OVDGWjqr
— Trey Wallace (@TreyWallace_) October 10, 2020
Georgia 17, Tennessee 14 (4:49): Jack Podlesny 47-yard field goal. Drive: Five plays, 46 yards, 1:51. Key play: Jermaine Burton 43-yard run to UT 32.
Tennessee 14, Georgia 14 (6:40): Josh Palmer 36-yard pass from Jarrett Guarantano (Brett Cimaglia kick). Drive: One play, 36 yards. Key play: Stetson Bennett stopped on fourth-and-1 at UGA 36.
Georgia 14, Tennessee 7 (11:42 ): Stetson Bennett 8-yard run (Jack Podlesny kick). Drive: 12 plays, 95 yards, 6:15. Key play: UT pass interference on third-and-13, moves ball to Vols’ 33.
Kenny McIntosh 2 carries, 18 yards, one catch, 29 yards
Stetson Bennett 4-5, 48 yards
Jarrett Guarantano 4-5, 21 yards
— Matt Landers leaves field holding hand/wrist after incomplete pass on penultimate play of first quarter
Georgia 7, Tennessee 7 (6:38): Zamir White 2-yard run (Jack Podlesny kick); Drive: Five plays, 63 yards, 2:29. Key play: Kenny McIntosh 28-yard catch from Stetson Bennett to the UT 2.
Tennessee 7, Georgia 0 (14:17): Kivon Bennett fumble recovery in end zone (Brett Cimaglia kick). Key play: Trey Hill snaps ball over Stetson Bennett’s head, ball goes into end zone.
Other SEC Games
Texas A&M 41, Florida 38 FINAL
Missouri 45, LSU 41 FINAL
South Carolina 41, Vanderbilt 7 FINAL
Auburn 30, Arkansas 28 FINAL
Alabama at Ole Miss (7:30 p.m.)
Mississippi State at Kentucky (7:30 p.m.)
— James Cook ruled out (shoulder)
• UGA captains Mark Webb, Kearis Jackson, Jordan Davis
ATHENS — Kirby Smart and his Georgia Bulldogs will look across the field Saturday and see a lot of familiar faces clad in orange, on the sideline and in the coaching booth.
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (2-0) play host to a No. 14-ranked Tennessee team (2-0) that’s riding a Power 5-conference-long eight-game win streak.
The Vols are doing it with 25 players on their roster from the state of Georgia, along with former Bulldog offensive lineman Cade Mays and former UGA assistant coaches Jeremy Pruitt, Jim Chaney and Will Friend.
Chaney is the coach most Georgia fans are intrigued by, as he will be calling the plays against a Georgia defense that leads the SEC in every major statistical category.
“He’s got a lot of stuff, (but) it’s not like he can run it all against us,” Smart said of Chaney, who served by his side from 2016-2018 in Athens. “It’s a lot about, ‘What is he going to do, and what is he going to do off of it? What is he going to carry this game? and how well we can adjust to it, fast.’”
Tennessee jumped out to a lead over Georgia last season and was up 14-13 with two minutes left in the second quarter at Neyland Stadium before the Bulldogs roared back for a 43-14 win.
“Chaney has gone against our defense for a really long time, Pruitt knows about our defense, they know the ins and outs,” Smart said. “But at the end of the day, you have to block the person in front of you. You have to move some people. You have to strike them, so they present a challenge of being able to run the ball.
“They really have really good wideouts. They have a very experienced quarterback who’s going to get them into the right play. They’ve got backs who catch the ball in the backfield. I expect to see quite a bit of empty from Coach Chaney, because he likes to do that— change things up … They go with tempo at times and go fast.”
Georgia is ready to roll with former walk-on and junior college QB Stetson Bennett, who makes up for his lack of size and arm strength with mobility and moxie.
UGA slot man Kearis Jackson had 9 catches for 147 yards last week, but George Pickens had only two receptions.
Smart explained that wasn’t by design, and Pickens will be more involved in the game plan this week.
“There were a couple the other night that were designed to George but something happened where he ran into a linebacker once on a crossing route, and so he wasn’t able to hit George and he found Kearis,” Smart said. “On another one, they brought (coverage) over the top of George, so he went over to the other side and found Kearis. And then there were some screens that were designed for Kearis.”
The Bulldogs, as always, will look to establish a ground game with Zamir White, who has yet to break a run longer than 20 yards in any of his three previous starts.
Georgia might also see more of Kenny McIntosh in the backfield with James Cook questionable on account of the injured shoulder he suffered in last Saturday’s 27-6 win over Auburn.
DawgNation GameDay reads
Key stats to watch
Jeremy Pruitt is:
10-2 with a turnover margin of plus-one or better
4-0 with a turnover margin of plus-two or better
3-0 with turnover margin of plus-three or better
Kirby Smart is:
37-6 when UGA scores first, but 8-7 when opponent scores first
39-3 when leading at half, but 7-9 when tied or trailing at half
Georgia availability report
OLB Jermaine Johnson (shoulder), probable
TE Tre’ McKitty (knee), probable
RB James Cook (shoulder), questionable
WR Arian Smith (knee), doubtful
OL Netori Johnson (academics), out
WR Dominick Blaylock (knee), out
DB Kelee Ringo (labrum), out