ATHENS - The crowd here is stunned, and one suspects the Georgia Bulldogs are as well. They are tied 30-all at the end of one half, after leading 27-10, seemingly on the way to a rout of Tennessee. And the Bulldogs would be trailing if not for the heavy foot of Marshall Morgan, who can kick 50-yard field goals but miss extra points.
Here are seven observations and thoughts:
1. Fumbles, special-team mistakes and an interception. That'll do it. Tennessee was trying to fold up like a tent, but Georgia let the Vols back in the game in a big way. Special teams loom large, whether it's Morgan missing a PAT, Malcolm Mitchell letting a punt roll and be downed at the 1, or Todd Gurley going out of bounds on a kickoff at the 1. The biggest play, however, was Aaron Murray fumbling the ball over at his own 8, after a Tennessee blitzer was allowed to go up the gut and sack Murray without being touched. Then it got worse when Keith Marshall fumbled at his own 18, with Tennessee punching it in a few plays later to take the lead.
2. Georgia has to get Mitchell off punt and kick return. He's a great athlete, but it's not like they don't have anybody else to handle the job. (Branden Smith was this bad at it last year? I think not.) In fact the special-teams blunders are the main reason this is still a game. And they've all been individual mistakes, so don't blame the lack of a special teams coach.
3. All that said, if Georgia cuts down on the mistakes it should still be able to put this one away in the second half. Tennessee looks fairly helpless on defense when Georgia isn't pinned near its end zone. And the Bulldog defense basically played well, not helped by having to start a few possessions deep in their own end.
4. Alec Ogletree (10 tackles) has been close to magnificent in his return. The junior inside linebacker had a tackle on his first play of the season, and later tipped a pass that was picked off downfield by Damian Swann. He's been around the ball after a ton of plays.
5. Bacarri Rambo got off to a rougher start in his season debut. He gambled too much on a third-down play, missing an interception that instead resulted in a 22-yard gain. Of course a few plays later Rambo made a key stop on third-down to force a field goal. Rambo is still better against the run than he is in pass coverage. Rambo has five tackles in the half.
6. Really, what else can you say about Gurley at this point? The freshmen had a 51-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that was beautiful - weaving in and out of the defense, shedding tacklers - but it was nothing we really haven't seen already. Gurley now has nine touchdowns through four-and-a-half games. Herschel Walker, who is in the house for this game, had 15 as a freshman in 1980. Just sayin'. Marshall isn't too shabby either. His 75-yard run made it 14-7, immediately snuffing out any momentum the Volunteers' gained by the pick-six on Aaron Murray. (Gurley can block too. He had a nice cut-off block to spring Marlon Brown for an eight-yard run on an end-around.)
7. Think they badly wanted Mitchell on offense? He had four touches on the first drive, one rush and two pass, and one rush that was later ruled a pass. That was the opening play of the game, where the statisticians reviewed it at halftime and deemed the ball to be going forward. Interestingly enough, Mitchell hasn't played defense at all. (And he shouldn't have played special teams.)