Football vs Georgia

No. 1 Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint celebrates with No. 69 Tate Ratledge after his touchdown reception in win over Tennessee on Nov. 4.

The No. 1 Vols took their first loss of the season in ugly fashion, falling to No. 3 Georgia 27-13. From start to finish, the Vols did not show many signs of life. They opened the game by forcing a fumble on the Bulldogs’ first drive, but had to settle for a field goal and it was a one-sided affair after that. 

The Bulldogs showed that they are still top dogs in the SEC East and Tennessee still has work to do. Perhaps the Vols perform better on a neutral site or at home. Either way, that’s not how things turned out. Tennessee was forced to play in one of the loudest games in college football history after three straight home games.

“They’re a great ball team,” quarterback Hendon Hooker said. “They played extremely hard, and they got the win today. We have to clean things up. It’s a learning process.”

Here are some takeaways from the Vols’ loss in Athens. 

The crowd was Georgia's best player

The Georgia faithful clearly played a role in the game, causing many uncharacteristic mistakes by the Tennessee offense. Seven false starts out of the Vols pretty much tell the story of how much the crowd affected the game.

“The crowd noise was effective,” wide receiver Jalin Hyatt said. “Sometimes  we couldn’t hear the snap or the play call from Hendon. I give credit to the fans. That would probably be the biggest thing that got us today.”

The loudest crowd in college football history was recorded at 133.6 decibels. The crowd at Sanford Stadium at one point read 132.6 decibels. 

It seemed as if the Vols were unable to utilize the full playbook with a plethora of short passes despite being known for dicing up defenses vertically. Even when Hendon Hooker would take shots, he was missing. Early in the game, he overthrew Jalin Hyatt on third down in a play that likely would have resulted in a touchdown. To open the third quarter, he overthrew an open Bru McCoy that was instrumental in closing the door of a comeback.

Without a doubt, the crowd noise hampered the decision-making all around the offense.

The offense lives and dies with the run game

Though the passing offense has been the star of the show all year, it all starts with the run. That’s what separates the Vols offense under Josh Heupel from other air-raid offenses such as Mississippi State under Mike Leach. 

Against LSU the Vols’ backs ran for 187 yards. Against Alabama, the Vols ran for 124 yards. Against Kentucky, the group ran for 152 yards. On the other hand, they ran for just 77 yards on Saturday.

That stat says it all for what happened. Without the run game, Georgia was able to simply sit down in coverage and shut down the Tennessee offense. 

Third down woes

The Vols had trouble both staying on the field offensively and getting off the field defensively when it came to third down situations. The Vols were 2-14 on third down, and no team is winning with those numbers. If the Vols were able to convert at least three more of those, they would have had a fighter’s chance at the win.

On the other side of the ball, Tennessee allowed Georgia to go 7-12 on third down conversions. Those two stats simply say it all. It has been a given all year that Tennessee’s offense can move the ball even when the defense doesn’t get stops. That was just not the case against Georgia.  

Other Notes

Cedric Tillman had a solid game, racking up 68 yards. His main offense was on the short pass, but he was able to do a lot of damage after the catch with 27 yards.

The Georgia defense sacked Hooker six times. Though a few of those came from him holding the ball a little too long, it was still the offensive line’s worst outing of the season.  

“We’ve gotta be real about what happened in that game,” Heupel said. “We’ve got to grow and be able to handle that in a much better way than we did tonight.”

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