Georgia Bulldogs: Vols-Bulldogs-092912

Freshman RB duo continues 'absurd' play

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
11:00
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ATHENS, Ga. -- By this point, it’s hard to even be surprised by the regular highlight-reel performances of Georgia’s freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.

Both players rushed for more than 100 yards in the same game for the second time in three weeks -- no UGA freshman tailback tandem had done it once since 2004 -- combining for 294 yards and five touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 51-44 win against Tennessee on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeKeith Marshall
Jeff Vest/Icon SMIFreshman running back Keith Marshall ran for 164 yards and two touchdowns on only 10 carries in Georgia's victory over Tennessee.
“It’s gotten to a point that when they run, I don’t expect them to get tackled,” Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch joked.

The freshmen were the driving force in Georgia jumping out to a 27-10 lead over the Volunteers, scoring the Bulldogs’ first four touchdowns -- including a 75-yard Marshall scoring run and a 51-yard burst by Gurley.

Even when both players committed their first big errors -- Gurley botched a kickoff return that left Georgia with field position at its own 1-yard line and Marshall lost a fumble at the Georgia 18 that directly led to a Tennessee touchdown -- their teammates rallied around the freshmen and helped restore their confidence.

“I don’t want to let the team down in any situation and I put a lot of pressure on myself after that,” said Marshall, who rushed for 164 yards on 10 carries. “A lot of the older guys came over to me after that and patted me on the back and the coaches said to worry about the next play.”

The veterans’ patience certainly seemed to pay off. Marshall contributed his second touchdown run of the night -- a 72-yard burst -- late in the third quarter, giving the Bulldogs a valuable two-touchdown lead.

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Georgia's offense has unstoppable feel

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
10:58
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ATHENS, Ga. -- To Georgia coach Mark Richt, it wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The five consecutive 40-plus-point games (a school record), the 536 yards per game and all that firepower. None of that seemed like a reality when Richt was wincing his way through spring practice.

“If you guys could have seen our first practice in the spring, you would have just shook your head and said we had no chance,” Richt said. “Our offensive line was just getting the tar beat out of them and we just didn’t look very good at all.”

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Special teams a mixed bag for UGA

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
10:12
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s special-teams units continued to both giveth and taketh away against Tennessee on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeMarshall Morgan
Radi Nabulsi/ESPN.comMarshall Morgan missed two extra points against Tennessee, but his 50-yard field goal at the end of the first half was a momentum boost for UGA.
A pair of botched kick returns directly contributed to the Bulldogs’ second-quarter meltdown -- when they let a 27-10 lead evaporate into a 30-27 deficit – as returners Todd Gurley and Malcolm Mitchell both made mistakes that forced Georgia to start drives at its own 1-yard line.

Plus, Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan missed two extra points, banking one off the left upright and getting another one blocked.

“It’s a little bit of a comedy of errors,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said of the Bulldogs’ struggles in the kicking game.

Mitchell failed to field a punt well away from the goal line and it rolled dead at Georgia’s 1, forcing an eventual Bulldogs punt that gave Tennessee great field position for its first touchdown drive.

That, plus a couple of similar poor decisions in previous games, has cost Mitchell the punt-return job for the time being.

“Malcolm certainly in my opinion could have come up on the one punt and just caught it, fair-catched it, but he let it hit and then he let it roll and before you know it, it’s on the 1-yard line,” Richt said.

“That’s tough. That’s a bad field-position situation, so we put Rhett McGowan in there. And as far as I’m concerned, Rhett’s the guy and I need him to make good decisions and come up and make the fair catch.”

After the Volunteers cut Georgia’s lead to 27-23, Gurley dribbled the kickoff near the corner of the end zone, stumbled out of bounds, then came back inbounds and touched the ball at the 1 to make it a dead ball. Four plays later, Keith Marshall fumbled at the Georgia 18, setting up another short touchdown drive that put the Vols up 30-27.

“Obviously we mishandled the one kickoff, but it was kind of a weird kick,” Richt said. “It was like a knuckleballer out there.”

It was not a completely disastrous day for Georgia’s special teams, however.

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Instant analysis: Georgia 51, Tennessee 44

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
7:54
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ATHENS, GA. -- In a wild shootout that featured more than 1,000 yards of total offense, No. 5 Georgia hung on to defeat Tennessee 51-44 on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

It was over when: Georgia’s Jordan Jenkins stripped Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray of the ball, and John Jenkins recovered for the Bulldogs at their own 32 with 1:22 to play. Georgia had to punt the ball back to Tennessee, but Bray was intercepted by a diving Sanders Commings with seven seconds remaining.

Game ball goes to: Georgia freshman running back Keith Marshall rushed for 164 yards on 10 carries and had touchdown runs of 75 and 72 yards.

Stat of the game: Georgia has scored 40 or more points in all five of its games this season.

Stat of the game II: Bray turned the ball over on each of Tennessee’s last three offensive possessions -- two interceptions and a fumble.

Unsung hero: Commings had two interceptions for the Bulldogs, both coming in the fourth quarter.

What it means: Georgia (5-0, 3-0) hangs on to stay unbeaten heading into next week’s big Eastern Division showdown with South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. Tennessee (3-2, 0-2) gets a week off before traveling to Mississippi State on Oct. 13 in a game that will swing the Vols’ season one way or the other.

Halftime Analysis: UGA 30, Tennessee 30

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
5:56
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Stat of the half: 20-0. Georgia seemed to be on the way to a blowout win when it went up 27-10 early in the second quarter, but Tennessee mounted a 20-0 run and actually took the lead before Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan’s 50-yard field goal at the buzzer made it 30-all at the break. The Volunteers capitalized on a pair of Bulldogs turnovers deep in Georgia territory to score touchdowns that gave them a brief lead.

Player of the half: Todd Gurley. Although he made a crucial mistake on a kickoff return that forced the Bulldogs to start a drive at their own 1, Gurley had an outstanding half otherwise. He went to halftime with 11 carries for 90 yards and scored touchdowns of 2, 1 and 51 yards.

What’s working for Georgia: Georgia outgained Tennessee 234 yards to 68 in the first quarter as the Bulldogs’ red-hot offense staked them to another big early lead. A week after jumping out to an early 27-0 lead against Vanderbilt, Georgia led Tennessee 27-10 within the first few minutes of the second quarter after Gurley’s 51-yard touchdown run.

What’s not working for Georgia: The Bulldogs’ offense has practically given away 20 points. Quarterback Aaron Murray had a first-quarter pass deflected by Corey Miller and intercepted by Byron Moore, who then returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. And late in the second quarter, Murray lost a fumble at Georgia’s 8 after being sacked, setting up a Tyler Bray touchdown pass to Zach Rogers that made it 27-23. Finally Keith Marshall lost a fumble at the Georgia 18, setting up a Bray touchdown pass to Rajion Neal that gave the Vols a shocking 30-27 lead.

A lot on the line Between the Hedges

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
3:39
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ATHENS, Ga. -- A lot is at stake inside Sanford Stadium.

Georgia wants to get back to Atlanta, while Tennessee is trying to prove it can still hang in the East.

The fifth-ranked Bulldogs enter today's matchup sporting a nine-game conference winning streak in the regular season (not counting last season's national championship), while Tennessee has lost two straight SEC games going back to last season. The Vols were overwhelmed in the second half against Florida earlier this season, and that can't happen again today.

If the Vols want a shot at pulling the upset, they have to play for four quarters. Georgia is built to do it, but we don't know if the Vols are. Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray went as far to say that the Vols "disappeared" and "crawled in a shell" in the second half against Florida.

That type of behavior won't cut it "Between the Hedges."

Tennessee also has to develop a tougher running game. Without it, this offense could be in trouble. Bray can't afford to throw the ball 40 times against this defense, especially with Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree coming back.

Welcome to Athens

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
2:30
PM ET
ATHENS, Ga. -- We're "Between the Hedges" today and the weather is great.

There are a few clouds, but it isn't very hot and we could be in for some perfect football conditions with two teams looking to make statements in the SEC East race.

Tennessee needs a win to stay in the race, while Georgia is looking to stay at the top with an unbeaten record. And this could be one of those games that lights up the scoreboard. Georgia and Tennessee are first and second in the SEC in total offense and are both in the top five in the conference in scoring.

We won't see anything like what's going on in the West Virginia-Baylor game, but these two offenses have the capability of giving these defenses fits.

Everyone is anxiously waiting to see what will happen with Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree, who were both suspended for the first four games of the season. Coach Mark Richt said earlier this week that both are expected to play, but when or for how long still remains a mystery. The good news for Georgia fans is that both are dressed for today.

Maybe they'll find their way onto the field in the first quarter or could sit until the third. Maybe we'll see them in the second. Who knows?

Getting them back in some form or fashion should only make this Georgia defense better, and that's not good news for the Vols, who are trying to prove they can hang in games with tough SEC opponents. They'll have to play better in the second half to do that.

Should be a fun one here in Athens.

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