In a game that spanned 60 minutes, Georgia effectively beat Tennessee in about four.
The Bulldogs scored two touchdowns in the final 4:02 of the first half against Tennessee on Saturday night. This turned a 14-13 deficit into a 26-14 halftime advantage, giving the Bulldogs a stranglehold they did not relinquish in a 43-14 victory.
“It shows it’s something we’ve been working at since fall camp and something that we pride ourselves in,” quarterback Jake Fromm said. “When you really work hard at something, when you have opportunities on Saturday to go out and do it, we did it and we executed it.”
Until that point, the contest hadn’t gone according to plan for the Bulldogs. The defense had been gashed in the passing game, and the offense twice had to settle for a field goal after drives stalled.
This comes after the offense struggled and the defense shined early two weeks ago against Notre Dame, leading head coach Kirby Smart to say after the game his team needs to focus on putting together a complete first half performance.
The Bulldogs took over at their own 40-yard line with 4:02 left in the half trailing 14-13. Two runs followed by a pass from Fromm moved the ball to the Volunteer 39, and a defensive holding gave Georgia a first down at the Tennessee 29-yard line.
After a reverse to receiver Tyler Simmons and a run from running back D’Andre Swift moved it to the 3-yard line, Fromm found receiver Lawrence Cager for a touchdown in the front corner of the end zone. The Bulldogs led 20-14 with 1:59 left until halftime after a drive that went 60 yards over six plays in just over two minutes.
On that drive, the Bulldogs had plenty of time. But after Tennessee kicker Brent Cimaglia missed a 47-yard field goal with 59 seconds left in the half, the offense knew it would have to march the 70 yards to the end zone in a hurry.
“Let’s go take advantage of the opportunity we had,” Fromm said of the mindset before that drive. “We had plenty of time, we had three timeouts. Let’s go out and execute.”
Luckily for the Bulldogs, two-minute offense is something they work on nearly every day at practice. Cager said Smart gives the offense the toughest situations imaginable to prepare them for moments like they faced Saturday night.
“It calms your nerves, really,” Cager said. “You don’t feel so rushed. The game slows down because you’ve been doing it for so long with so many different scenarios.”
The first half of the drive saw Swift steal the show. He started the sequence with a 23-yard run and followed with receptions of 15 and 4 yards sandwiched around a Georgia timeout, setting the Bulldogs up with a first down at the Tennessee 28-yard line.
Fromm then found Cager over the middle down to the Volunteer 7. Rather than call a second timeout, the junior signal caller got his team in formation and ran a play, finding receiver George Pickens in the end zone with nine seconds left in the half.
A two-point conversion after that failed, but even so, the Bulldogs had turned a one-point deficit into a 12-point, 26-14 halftime lead before you could even say “Rocky Top.”
In a game that had started poorly, Cager said the quick strikes gave the entire team, offense and defense, confidence heading into the second half. That showed in the final 30 minutes as the Bulldogs cruised to the 43-14 triumph.
“Just because we’re down doesn’t mean that we can’t win the game,” Cager said. “I think that’s what really sparked the team going into halftime, just knowing that, ‘Hey guys, if we just calm down and play our game, nobody can beat us.’”