The Tennessee Volunteers overcame a 24-3 first half deficit to defeat the visiting Georgia Bulldogs Saturday in Knoxville. Tennessee fans have had a trying three-week stretch, but Saturday's victory almost certainly serves to remind them that sports can be very enjoyable. This was a Tennessee team that in all likelihood was not as bad as its record showed, and the comeback against Georgia further illustrates their dangerous nature.
The Bulldog faithful unquestionably experienced their own emotional roller coaster on Saturday afternoon. Running back phenom Nick Chubb suffered a gruesome injury on the first play of the game. According to Mark Richt in the post-game press conference, Chubb might not require surgery:
Mark Richt said he is optimistic RB Nick Chubb won't need surgery on his injured knee.— Marc Weiszer (@marcweiszer) October 10, 2015
After Chubb's injury, though, the Georgia offense, defense, and special teams each made big first-half plays to build what seemed like an insurmountable lead. Putting aside the injury to Chubb, the Georgia offense had success Saturday. Sony Michel filled in for Chubb, going for 145 yards on 22 carries. Grayson Lambert also put up a decent stat line, going 15-of-32 passing for 279 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. The entire offense gained 444 total yards, and the only thing preventing more points was poor third-down execution.
The Dawgs' well-rounded approach was strangling the Vols with only minutes until halftime. The specter of previous weeks' failures began forming like storm clouds over Neyland Stadium. Then a funny thing happened: Tennessee would flip the script, and become the team that mounts the jaw-dropping comeback.
Georgia's defense did not fulfill their part of the bargain, and credit belongs to the Vols, who executed their game plan seemingly to near-perfection. The Bulldogs had only been allowing 295 yards per game this season, but Tennessee gained 519 yards. That yardage was largely on the back of quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who threw for 312 yards while running for another 118. Running back Jalen Hurd ran for 80 yards, while receiver Josh Malone and tight end Ethan Wolf each hauled in some big passes. The Tennessee offensive line, dealing with injuries, successfully opened holes for Dobbs and Hurd (offensive coordinator Mike DeBord successfully minimized Georgia defenders in the box), while also only allowing one sack.
Tennessee's victory brings their conference record to 2-2, further jumbling the SEC East's second tier under Florida. Critically, though, it changes the narrative for Tennessee going forward. Butch Jones has some breathing room, message board zealots are appeased (for at least 24 hours), and a team with a lot of talent has some momentum heading into the bye week.
Alabama looms in the distance, but Tennessee is more ready than ever.