Knoxville, Tenn.–The Georgia Bulldogs had recovered from losing Nick Chubb to an injury on the first play and appeared headed to halftime with a commanding lead over Tennessee.
It all changed in about two minutes of game time.
The Volunteers converted two fourth downs before scoring one touchdown. They forced a fumble by UGA kick returner Sony Michel and recovered it, turning that turnover into another touchdown.
Suddenly, the Vols trailed by just one touchdown at halftime after they were down 21-3 with just more than a minute until intermission. The Vols tied the game with touchdowns on back-to-back drives in the third quarter and went on to a 38-31 victory at Neyland Stadium.
“How do we hold them to three points for the first 27 minutes of the game and how did they score 35 in the next 33 minutes of the game?” UGA defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said. “That’s the things we’ve got to figure out”
The Bulldogs still led 24-17 at halftime but easily could have been up 21-3. That was their advantage when Tennessee faced a fourth-and-4 at UGA’s 47-yard line with less than two minutes before halftime.
Vols quarterback Joshua Dobbs dropped back and scanned the field before zipping a pass to wide receiver Von Pearson, who had found just enough room to make the catch. The six-yard gain earned Tennessee a first down at the UGA 41.
The Vols managed just two yards on their next three plays, including two incomplete passes by Dobbs. On fourth down Dobbs found Josh Smith with a pass in the middle of the field, and Smith turned and outran three UGA defenders to the end zone.
“We gave them a couple easy throws and that’s on me,” Pruitt said. “That’s something we hadn’t been doing and now we did it last week and we did it again this week. I’ve got to get the kids ready to execute a game plan.”
The ensuing kickoff went to Michel, who had ably filled in for Chubb at tailback. He ran into a wall of defenders near the 25-yard line, where Tennessee’s Jakob Johnson pried the ball loose and teammate John Kelly recovered it.
Michel said he had “a lack of focus” on the play.
“It hurts bad,” Michel said. “My team fought hard. We made a lot of mistakes, and I feel like I made the biggest mistake that turned this game around. I kind of want to take this game on myself. I felt like we lost this game because of me.”
Tennessee took over with 50 seconds before halftime. Josh Malone’s 23-yard catch-and-run on third-and-10 set up a first down at the 2-yard line. After a run for no gain by Jalen Hurd, Alvin Camara scored on a two-yard catch to trim UGA’s lead to 24-17.