KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Georgia coach Kirby Smart knew it was just a matter of time Saturday night.
Sure, the Bulldogs’ defense started slow, giving up two Tennessee touchdowns in the first 16 minutes.
But Smart was confident his No. 3-ranked Georgia program (5-0) would respond, and they did just that, scoring a 43-14 victory over the Vols (1-4) at Neyland Stadium.
“They punched us in the face with the big play and we responded,” Smart said. “That’s what you’re looking for in your team. It’s the first time some of our defensive players have taken that punch.”
The Bulldogs’ offense, meanwhile, came out swinging and totaled 526 yards by the end of the night.
“We started pretty well offensively, (but) we didn’t start very well on defense,” Smart said. “We started really well defensively last time, but we didn’t start really well offensively. We just have to put that together.”
Most importantly, Georgia needs to keep running the ball effectively.
“To protect the quarterback, you have to run the ball, you cannot drop back and pass it every play,” Smart said. “That’s what hurt them. When you can’t run the ball, it eventually wears you down because people keep rushing at you, rushing at you and eventually gets to your quarterback.
“The run game protects your quarterback.”
Sure enough, Fromm wasn’t sacked, and the Bulldogs out-rushed the Vols 238 yards to 70 yards. The time of possession was even more staggering: 36:28 for Georgia, 23:32 for UT.
“I felt like we were wearing them down, but we were wearing them down in a better style than just having to run the ball all the time,” Smart said. “Jake (Fromm) was doing a good job mixing it up. Thought (James) Coley did a good job mixing up the calls.”
Georgia returns to action at noon next Saturday at home against South Carolina.