By BILL SHANKS
Special to the Ledger-Enquirer
ATHENS, Ga. — The sweet taste of victory is even better when you haven’t tasted it in a while, so the Georgia Bulldogs must have felt like they went to the buffet Saturday.
After a brutal four-game losing streak, Georgia got a gift: Tennessee came to town.
Tennessee has a horrible football team. The Volunteers made Mississippi State and Colorado look like Alabama and Boise State. And that’s exactly the type of team Georgia needed to play.
When wins are hard to come by, you’ll take anything you can get. Who cares if Tennessee isn’t good? A win is a win.
A Georgia fan texted me right after the game and summed it up pretty well: “Just what we needed.”
The Bulldogs got a shot of orange penicillin Saturday. They took advantage of most everything Tennessee handed them.
The key came on the first series. After allowing the opponent to score on the first possession in every game during the losing streak, Georgia stopped the Vols on the first drive.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt called his defensive players together before the game and told them if UGA won the toss, he would defer to the second half so the defense could get on the field. Some might have believed he would want the ball, to try and get on the board first and grab that elusive lead. But Richt wanted the defense to redeem itself.
The defense did its job, stopping Tennessee. Then the offense got the ball without trailing for the first time in a month on the first series and scored to get the lead.
“That gave us confidence from the get-go,” outside linebacker Justin Houston said. “That just helped motivate us to keep playing hard.”
“It was a great momentum shift for us, and it was a great momentum shift for the offense also, giving them field position in order to drive the ball down to get into the end zone,” said defensive end Demarcus Dobbs. “We can’t be playing from behind each game. We’ve got to get our offense the ball.
“It helped set the tone.”
That allowed the offense to take over, which it hasn’t done since Louisiana-Lafayette was in Athens five weeks ago. Quarterback Aaron Murray, who has been one bright spot during the skid, played well again. And wide receiver A.J. Green continued to show how valuable he is to this team.
This was a game Georgia was supposed to win, but the Bulldogs’ play in the past four weeks brought that into question. So those who still will be skeptical will undoubtedly say that Georgia won “because they were supposed to.”
But sometimes you just need to stop the bleeding. Georgia bled a lot the past four weeks, and it needed a win to make it stop.
And now the Bulldogs must keep the momentum going for as long as possible. They have Vanderbilt at home next week and then go to Kentucky before heading to Jacksonville to play the mighty Gators.
“We felt we’ve been knocking on the door for four games,” Murray said. “We felt we had opportunities. If we changed 10 plays in the last four games we could be undefeated right now. So we’ve been knocking on the door. Today, we finally kicked it in.”
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