The Georgia Bulldogs escaped Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon with an amazingly close 34-31 overtime victory over the Tennessee Volunteers that saw the Bulldogs lose running back Keith Marshall and wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley for the season with torn ACLs.
Even though most of the fans who viewed this matchup may blame Tennessee wide receiver Pig Howard for the Volunteers’ losing the game in overtime, the focus of this game should not be the unfortunate fumble by Howard, but rather the outstanding play of Bulldogs senior quarterback Aaron Murray. Murray’s statistics were not exactly impressive (19 completions on 35 attempts for 196 yards and three touchdowns), but what he brought on the field was incredible, as he continued to make play after play despite the Dawgs losing almost all of its offensive playmakers.
The best part of Murray’s game came late in the fourth quarter when the senior led Georgia on a ten-play, seventy-five yard drive that saw the Bulldogs convert on three third downs and tie the game 31-31 on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Murray to Rantavious Wooten. While the last-minute heroics by Murray did not come by a very talented team (keep in mind the Vols only beat South Alabama by seven last Saturday), the fact that he was able to make the plays when it mattered most should put his name among the top contenders for this year’s Heisman Trophy.
Although a win, no matter what the circumstances, is a great win when you call the Southeastern Conference home, the Bulldogs leave the game with several more concerns than they came in with. The biggest problem for Georgia at this point is injuries; in all, the Bulldogs saw running back Keith Marshall, wide receivers Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett, and even punter Colin Barber leave due to injury.
Unfortunately for Georgia, an already thin running back unit was hit with another big loss due to Marshall’s injury, leaving the team with the already banged up sophomore Todd Gurley along with freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas in the backfield. As if the woes at running back were not bad enough, Georgia’s wide receiver depth is also very dangerous with Scott-Wesley’s loss along with Bennett’s uncertainty (he is expected to miss the upcoming matchup against Missouri), leaving Murray receiving targets like Chris Conley, Reggie Davis, Rantavious Wooten, and Jay Rome. To put it simply, at this point it looks like the only certainty that remains for Georgia is the man behind center.
Georgia’s offense may have left the fans cringing due to the number of players that went down with injury, but it was the defense that left most fans shaking their heads. Even though Georgia was facing a Tennessee squad that had struggled consistently on offense through five games, the Volunteers had no issues against this young Dawgs’ defense, racking up 404 yards and putting up more points that the South Carolina Gamecocks did against Georgia earlier in the year.
Georgia simply could not stop Tennessee in this game, particular junior quarterback Justin Worley, who went from goat of all goats in Knoxville to halfway respectable with his seventeen pass completions for 215 yards (the most for Worley in a game this season) and one touchdown in the loss.
It is understandable for Todd Grantham’s defense to have some growing pains considering how many players left after last season; however, that does not mean the defense is not Georgia’s biggest liability at this point, and could very well be the only thing stopping the Dawgs from contending for a national title.
The Bulldogs must now dust themselves off following the close win over the Volunteers and prepare to head back to Sanford Stadium on Saturday to take on the #25 Missouri Tigers, who are 5-0 for the first time since 2010. The Tigers look to be ready to finally compete in the SEC, shown by the 51-28 beatdown they gave the Vanderbilt Commodores just one day ago. The Tigers, led by senior quarterback James Franklin, are still looking for their signature SEC win, and if the Bulldogs play like they did in Knoxville, they could very well get it in Athens.
What were your takeaways from the Georgia win over Tennessee? Leave a comment and let your opinion be heard