That felt good, didn’t it?
The Georgia team that fans had expected to see this season finally showed up Saturday Between the Hedges after being largely missing for four weeks, and put a big-time hurt on Tennessee, thanks to the usually stellar play of A.J. Green, the continuing development of Aaron Murray as a legitimate dual-threat QB, and the Dogs finally flipping the turnover ratio on a major opponent.
Not that we should let ourselves get too giddy about this win. The Derek Dooley-led Volunteers team that Georgia beat Saturday was thoroughly mediocre.
But, hey, after losing to mediocre teams the past two weeks, having a game go the way it appeared like it should go on paper is a major turnaround for a UGA program that was beginning to look lost in the wilderness.
Basically, the die was cast in the first half, which was a game of turnovers, with the Big Orange handing it over on an interception and two fumbles, and the Dogs for once playing Johnny-on-the-spot, snagging the take-aways and scoring when they got the chance.
It wasn’t a perfect game for Georgia, by any means. While the defense played much improved, stifling an opponent’s first drive for the first time in a month and making some big third-down stops, the Dogs still showed themselves vulnerable to big plays, most notably in the second quarter when Justin Houston failed to wrap up a sack of UT’s Matt Simms and the quarterback scrambled away and threw a 38-yard touchdown pass.
But there definitely was improvement all-round, as the 41-14 score would indicate. The revamped offensive line still got jammed up too often and let blitzing defenders get to Murray occasionally, but generally the pass protection was excellent as Murray completed 17 of 25 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns.
Murray also ran for two scores and was actually Georgia’s most effective runner, ending the day with 41 yards on seven attempts after sacks were subtracted. He averaged 5.9 yards per run. His first ground score came on a beautiful 35-yard run after Tennessee completely bit on a play-action fake, and the other saw Murray scramble out of a sack on third and goal at the 7 and manage to hit the goal line pylon with the ball as he was forced out (a video review by the officials finally ruling it a touchdown after Georgia had gone ahead and kicked a field goal on what it thought was fourth down).
Speaking of the running game, Caleb King, who ran 13 times for 58 yards, solidified his position as Georgia’s first tailback, with some tough cut-back runs. Washaun Ealey was less effective, looking tentative early on and fumbling again down near the goal line, though this time it went out of bounds. He had 33 yards on 12 runs.
A.J. was, of course, A.J., snagging a nifty 33-yard pass on the Dogs’ third scoring drive and bowling over a defender to cross the goal line on the next drive, after special teams player Blake Sailors had recovered a fumbled punt.
Overall, it was the sort of day this Georgia team (and its fan base) badly needed.
I’ll be back Sunday afternoon with more thoughts on the game, but now let’s hear what you thought of the Dogs’ first conference win of the year.
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