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.
NextGeorgia football Game Ball: Azeez Ojulari sparks 44-21 comeback win...