UGA comes to Knoxville and takes another step up in class

Isaiah Crowell exults after putting Georgia ahead to stay. (AP photo)

Isaiah Crowell exults after putting Georgia ahead to stay in the third quarter. (AP photo)

Knoxville — No Bulldog was seen wearing any hobnailed boots, and nobody ran over a Tennessee defender as emphatically as you-know-who did back in you-know-when. But this victory, achieved on the same field that had yielded two of the most famous comebacks in Georgia history, nevertheless pressed the accelerator on what is becoming a comeback season.

From 0-2, these Bulldogs have risen to 4-2 and have stamped themselves as South Carolina’s only real competitor in the SEC East. Next week brings a trip to Vanderbilt, and then two weeks later the Bulldogs will head to Jacksonville, where they figure to be favored against the hated Gators. No, nothing is assured, and yes, Carolina still has to lose again to give Georgia an opening, but it’s now possible that much can be made from this make-or-break season.

Saturday night’s game, was billed, incorrectly, as a meeting of equals. After the doings inside the big stadium on the banks of the winding river, nobody’s apt to make that mistake again. Tennessee isn’t in the the class of Georgia, which is, after an 0-2 start, stepping up in class.

The two sides were tied after a strange first half that featured one punt, no turnovers and no touchdowns. Then Georgia grabbed control of this game the way Mark Richt’s teams had in this big stadium in 2003 and 2005, back when the Bulldogs were …. well, the class of the SEC.

Todd Grantham’s suddenly ravenous defense came out of halftime and made another stop, abetted by a bad Vol shotgun snap. The Bulldogs drove to a touchdown, abetted by a pass interference call against Orson Charles. After another stop, the often-lampooned offensive coordinator Mike Bobo made an inspired call, Aaron Murry throwing deep off play-action from the Georgia 7. Seventy-one yards downfield, the freshman Malcolm Mitchell hauled in the pass.

And that was the moment that the difference in these teams showed: Tennessee is an OK team with OK coaches and OK talent. Georgia is — or at least should be — much better than that. If Georgia isn’t LSU or Alabama, neither is it the halting bunch that stood and watched Boise State score four consecutive touchdowns in the Dome five weeks ago.

After Mitchell’s catch, another freshman finished the drive. The heralded Crowell had been hit hard and rendered ineffective in a 14-yards-on-seven-carries first half, but in the second half he ran, if not quite like Herschel Walker on that glorious night in 1980, then at least like a top-shelf collegiate tailback. Crowell’s 17-yard sweep made it 20-6, and this defense wasn’t about to let a two-touchdown lead go to waste.

This isn’t to say the remaining 19 minutes would be all roses and romance. Four consecutive penalties halted Georgia’s surge toward a clinching field goal and left the Bulldogs facing second-and-57. (In the history of football, has any team ever faced second-and-57?) Then they hit Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray so hard he had to exit — with a broken thumb, initial reports indicated — and his understudy Matt Simms converted on fourth-and-15 and finally notched a touchdown for the orange folks.

A statistical note: Apart from an Ole Miss double-reverse pass, Simms’ sneak marked the first touchdown against Grantham’s D since South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore scored with 3:28 remaining on the night of Sept. 10 — four games ago. The 3-4 is working, folks. And the offense is getting better.

It was instructive that, after Tennessee finally scored its touchdown, the effect was dulled by safety Shawn Williams, who blocked the PAT. That left the Vols eight points in arrears with time flying, and the inevitable onside kick had no chance. It bounded out of bounds, and Richt had his 100th victory as Georgia’s coach.

“We had a great celebration in the locker room,” Richt told reporters. “It was a lot of fun. I’m very humbled at the way the players and coaches responded toward me. One hundred wins is kind of hard to believe.”

Lately Richt’s bunch has too often been the team that trips over itself. This time the Bulldogs made Tennessee be that ungainly team. This time Georgia, which sustained deflating losses here in 2007 and 2009, came to the big stadium on the banks of the winding river and left with a victory that points directly toward Jacksonville, and perhaps beyond.

By Mark Bradley

684 comments Add your comment

Bill

October 8th, 2011
10:36 pm

Dbalcer

October 8th, 2011
10:36 pm

GO DAWGS and Congratulations to Mark Richt!!

JB in Blakely

October 8th, 2011
10:37 pm

Good solid win! And first for the first time!

JB in Blakely

October 8th, 2011
10:37 pm

Well, almost!

Long Way Home Dawg

October 8th, 2011
10:38 pm

Sick Em Dawgs, keep it going. Recruits will be lining up to play on this D and RBs see we are back to running the rock. Marshall come on down son.

falconsrus

October 8th, 2011
10:38 pm

Bill

October 8th, 2011
10:38 pm

Hell Yeah!!! 1st for the 1st time!

KB

October 8th, 2011
10:40 pm

good win on the road in the SEC.

Tyler Bwaaah

October 8th, 2011
10:41 pm

Everybody is out to get me, waaaahhhh!!!!

Dan Mullen

October 8th, 2011
10:43 pm

CalhounGA

October 8th, 2011
10:44 pm

GREAT ARTICLE!!!

boots

October 8th, 2011
10:44 pm

Two games in a row where the score could have been higher. I feel good about that, acutally. The offense shows some signs of brilliance built around young players, and they have yet to fully click. When they do, this team will be really good. Nice job by the defense. They are playing outstanding and have really shown themselves to be dominate. Just think, if we get past Vandy, we will be getting several key players back (Tree, Washington) and ready to whip the Gators. Go Dawgs!

TrueCrimson

October 8th, 2011
10:44 pm

Congrats on the win and the 100.

J Clay

October 8th, 2011
10:44 pm

Congrats to Coach Richt and the Dawgs. Still must beat the Gators to save
Your job but this team is showing a lot this season….imagine if we did not give Carolina 28 points….

missouridawg

October 8th, 2011
10:47 pm

Bad News

October 8th, 2011
10:47 pm

Good win. Now let’s get this offense in gear. Personally I still think UGA needs a better qualified OC. The offense is still playing way under thier talent level. The D looks good but, they still need to be more aggressive. The pass rush wasn’t as good as it has been. Not knocking the win, we needed it, but just pointing out the facts. We are still not Ala. or LSU. Thier offense is much more aggressive and the playcalling is much better. UGA needs more depth at RB. They need to bring in at least two good backs and some quicker WR.

JB

October 8th, 2011
10:47 pm

OK, we won. That will be the battle cry. Tenn. is awful….and against a decent team, Dawgs are also. Call me trash, but nothing I saw tonight would get us to the dome…on our own accord, not backing in. We just plain can’t put anyone away…and we are playing bad football teams.

Hairy Dawg

October 8th, 2011
10:48 pm

Woohoo!

I told you Coach Richt was the MAN and not goning do the hot sitting. Dawgs just started season young and now got experience to expose talent and rolling. We up to top of SEC East and got a game lead over wounded Gaytors and traitors Muschumps. We hobnail booted Smokies and Dooley Boy Orange Pumkins. Now we coming for you Muschumps and flabby Wies. Coach Richt be back now and all right in Dawg Nations as we table running to Dome.

Go Dawgs!

Don

October 8th, 2011
10:48 pm

Crowell, Mitchell & Murray had a good 3rd quarter, and the game really wasn’t that close after that until the refs starting throwing flags every time we lined up in a passing formation, that was ridiculous, forced us to run up middle 3x twice and punt, no choice.

chickenman

October 8th, 2011
10:49 pm

good win! SEC EAST is weak…. if we cant win it now i cannot imagine when we ever can

Da'Rick is 0-2, HA!

October 8th, 2011
10:49 pm

Great win! Our defense is looking REALLY good. Congrats to Richt for win #100!!!!

Don

October 8th, 2011
10:49 pm

Defense had a great game until gave up the td on the long drive.

CDL

October 8th, 2011
10:49 pm

2nd and 57!!..We were on their 23…Why isn’t CMR calling a timeout to settle his team down!…Might as well be at the house watching the game on the couch!!!…Frustrating watching this display…I am tired of CMR trying to sit on a lead….We need some emotion or something!!

bad brad

October 8th, 2011
10:50 pm

This game marked the first time all year that the offense wasnt offensive. Great to have a team that plays great defense. Isnt that what wins championships?

JB

October 8th, 2011
10:50 pm

OK, we won. Glad we aren’t playing good teams. Second half sloppy. We can’t put anyone away. If we had to play Bama and LSU like Fla and Tenn does, we would see how far away we are. Yes, great to win…Rah rah…………Congrats Richt on 100……..You have many many fans who love 8-4 and December bowls.

rex

October 8th, 2011
10:51 pm

Mark Richt sealed his new contract tonight. The classest coach in the SEC and one of the best coaches in the nation. Adams and McGarity are not fools. Richt aint going no where no time soon (so to speak). As Vince said, Richt will be here a very long time. However, he is probably getting sick of fair weather fans puking at him all of the time. Hopefully he want leave us.

James

October 8th, 2011
10:51 pm

Murray, Mitchell & Crowell all rallied and had 1 good quarter, in the 3rd quarter, and as good as the UGA defense was, that was all was needed.

Penalities called by refs were crazy, we couldn’t line up to pass, so made game closer.

Jimmy

October 8th, 2011
10:52 pm

Way to go Coach Richt.

suwaneedawg

October 8th, 2011
10:52 pm

GREAT WIN AND WAS MADE SWEETER BEING THAT IT WAS IN KNOXVILLE! ALL YOU HATERS NEED TO TAKE THE NIGHT OFF. THERE IS ALWAYS NEXT SATURDAY TO HOPE FOR THE DEMISE OF CMR.

Alaska Dawg

October 8th, 2011
10:52 pm

Nice job Mark! I agree on the 3rd and 57. Couldn’t help but think of what Munson what have said. 3rd and a mile! The Dawgs are already the state champs of Mississippi so now we must grab the Tennessee title and move on for the other state titles. Still worried about Fla and downright scared of GT!

OCity

October 8th, 2011
10:52 pm

Tenn is terrible. They won’t win 6 games this year.

rex

October 8th, 2011
10:53 pm

Richt, as Dooley said, is here to stay. I expect a long term contract to be offered to him after the Vandy win next week. I hope so.

Jimmy

October 8th, 2011
10:53 pm

Most of us know how far away we are from Alabama or LSU this year.
We will enjoy a win when we can get one.

Dawg48

October 8th, 2011
10:53 pm

Congrats coach richt on the 100

JB

October 8th, 2011
10:53 pm

Dooley plays Bama, LSU and S Carolina the next three weeks. The guy can’t catch a break. He was praying for a win over an upstart average Dawgs team….But we limped out with a win.

Dawgfanchase

October 8th, 2011
10:54 pm

Penalties will definitely need work for next week, but it was a wonderful win not only for the team but also for Richt and the program as a whole.

builderdawg

October 8th, 2011
10:54 pm

better win, still in question as to how good this team is, we beat 3 teams we should have beaten, hope we don’t lay an egg in nashville, we should beat them as well. it all will fall on that game in jax, just like it has in the past. cmr has no room for error, enjoy tonight, shut up you vol fans, you are still 1-2 years away, Grantham has a pretty good thing going on the d, bobo need to catch up on o.

dawgforlife

October 8th, 2011
10:54 pm

good win….although, I must admit I was about to pull my hair out as we went backwards to 2 and 57…and then the late hit out of bounds…Mitchell came up great. I hope he is okay to play next week..lets not over look Vandy…and get well during the bye week.

OCity

October 8th, 2011
10:54 pm

Ark matches up well for South Carolina.

Should be loss #2.

JB

October 8th, 2011
10:54 pm

rex…..really? This win tonight turn you on?

Hairy Dawg

October 8th, 2011
10:55 pm

And we wons the game on road in front of 100,000 in the S.E.C. that a real confrence. We showed world how Dawgs is class that makes Beast of East as Dream Team gets experience. This proofs why state talents want to play for Dawgs and go to NFL that Coach Richt knows how to coaching them to.

Jimmy

October 8th, 2011
10:55 pm

Alaska Dawg,

Munson would have said, “It’s 3rd and three thousand miles!”

Gdawg

October 8th, 2011
10:55 pm

Wow! I wanted to jump through the TV on those back to back to back to back penalties. I have NEVER seen a 2nd and 57….EVER!!! Our offense is starting to come around at times and then again…same old Bobo and Offensive line. I think I’ll go drink a bottle of Pepto now…Whew! I’m glad we won but …whew!

JB

October 8th, 2011
10:55 pm

rex, really?

Lenny

October 8th, 2011
10:55 pm

Wasn’t sure why the players gave Richt a Gatorade bath, but then I remembered the 100-win threshold. Congrats to a fine man and a fine coach. Now go figure out how to get those boys to play hard for 60 minutes!

Dawgfanchase

October 8th, 2011
10:55 pm

Not to mention Murray stepped up and led the offense like a champ.

J Clay

October 8th, 2011
10:56 pm

We were not expected to be on level of Bama or LSU this year so that does not bother me. Proud of teams focus after starting 0-2…just imagine if we did not give Carolina 28 points..

Lilburn Dawg

October 8th, 2011
10:57 pm

Second down and 57 to go and we give the ball to Samuel who hardly ever gets past the line of scrimmage???? Somebody’s gonna have to ’splain that one!!!! What could Bobo possibly be thinking???

HD

October 8th, 2011
10:57 pm

Murray beat YET ANOTHER bad team.

If only he could play like this against a ranked team.

athens dawg

October 8th, 2011
10:58 pm

Defense is awesome. Tennessee has a great passing game and we stopped it. We completely shut down their run game, and Bray was forced to beat us but he didn’t even get Tennessee in the end zone. Our defense is great. People were waiting for us to play a team that could actually pass the ball and we just did and we handled it well. I do think we missed Washington but we should be able to get past Vandy without him. We’ll get Ogletree and Washington back for Florida. Good news. Go Dawgs!