By Michael Williams
Despite a loss to the Georgia Bulldogs, the University of Tennessee Volunteers have nothing to be ashamed of following a 34-31 loss in overtime action. The unranked Vols came into the game after a win last week against South Alabama hoping to defeat a nationally ranked competitor. The #6 ranked Bulldogs came into Neyland Stadium with a season record of 3-1 and clearly the favorite to win.
The Bulldogs scored first with a when Marshall Morgan booted in a 56-yard field goal. It was the longest in Marshall’s career and the longest field goal kicked in Neyland Stadium. The Vols struggled throughout the first quarter unable to gain any significant headway. Georgia scored a 1-yard touchdown when Aaron Murray passed to Chris Conley. The extra point kicked by Morgan was good giving the Bulldogs a 10-0 lead at the end of the first.
A 11-play drive brought the Vols to the Georgia 8-yard-line but the Tennessee offense was unable to find the endzone. The Vols scored 3 when Michael Palardy kicked a field goal from the 26-yard line.
With 5:06 left in the half, Georgia began an 11 play drive that covered 75 yards and culminated in 4-yard pass completion from Murray to Rantavious Wooten. Morgan’s extra point was good giving the Bulldogs a 17-3 lead.
In the third quarter the Vols came to life when Justin Worley threw a 19-yard pass to Marquez North. The extra point by Palardy closed the gap making the score 17-10.
A punt by Georgia was blocked and recovered by Devaun Swafford who ran in 15 yards to score. Palardy followed with a successful extra point tying the score 17-17.
At 14:55 of the fourth quarter Georgia broke the tie with a 3-yard run by Brendan Douglas and an extra point by Morgan making the score 24-17. Tennessee answered with nine play drive covering 75 yards and a 1-yard run by Rajion Neal. The extra point by Palardy tied the score 24-24.
With 1:54 leftin the game Tennessee moved ahead with a seven yard run by Neal and the extra point by Palardy making the score 31-24 in favor of the Vols. The electrified crowd went wild but their enthusiasm was to be short-lived. Georgia tied the score with only five seconds left in the game.
In overtime action Pig Howard caught a pass as he dove into the endzone. The ball slipped from Howard’s hands and the touchdown was called back. Georgia ended the game with a field goal by Morgan and a final score of 34-31.
Despite the loss the fans electrified the stadium with a level of energy not seen all season long. The game was close throughout and the fans maintained that level of energy after the game.
“I want to thank our great fan base,” said UT Coach Butch Jones. “It was an electric atmosphere. They definitely created a home field advantage. That’s why they are the best in the country. I want to thank our student body for their support. More than 12,000 students came out. I think what we learned is that we need that environment. We need you to come to the South Carolina game. I am proud of every individual in our football program and you saw a football team that was undermanned and laid it on the line. They made the plays to get it to that point and we learned how to finish and I am proud to be their head football coach. They had their best week of preparation. They bring it every day. You guys don’t see what I see. I see a coming together of a football team, a football program and this team has become closer than any team I have been a part of. We are going to keep grinding because that’s the only way I know how to do it and that’s the only way they know how to do it. I am proud of them.”