ATHENS, Ga. — University of Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley is still searching for his first signature win with the Volunteers, with a pair of 18-year-olds running off with his latest attempt.
Freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for 294 yards and five touchdowns Saturday at Sanford Stadium to pace No. 5 Georgia to a 51-44 victory. Georgia set a record for its most points against Tennessee in this border series, which began in 1899 and has been held annually since 1992.
"Well, that was fun," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said after defeating the Vols for the eighth time in 12 tries. "I'm sure CBS enjoyed that, and I'm sure the ratings were great. I'm proud of everybody, because I thought there were a lot of moments of truth when plays just had to be made at crunch time."
The shootout ultimately was decided on defense, as Georgia forced Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray into two interceptions and a fumble in the final six minutes.
Georgia improved to 5-0, while Tennessee dropped to 3-2. The Vols fell to 0-12 against ranked teams under Dooley, with Saturday marking just the second of those setbacks to occur by single digits.
"I am proud of this team for fighting," Dooley said. "We showed that we have some resilience, but we have a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball. We are leaving here a better team than when we got here."
Bray completed 24 of 45 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns, and a smiling Richt said afterward that it was time for the junior quarterback to move on to the NFL and take junior receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson with him. When asked next about his freshman tailbacks, Richt said, "They're pretty good, too, and they can't go anywhere for a while."
The tandem of Gurley and Marshall has been nicknamed "Gurshall," which evokes the greatest player in Georgia history, 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker. The legendary Walker was honored before Saturday's game and then watched as Marshall reeled off scoring runs of 75 and 72 yards on his way to a 164-yard showing.
"Herschel Walker is one of a kind, and these kids just need to keep doing what they're doing," Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "There is a tradition of a lot of great tailbacks here, and these guys that we've got right now are doing a great job. I'm proud of how they responded today."
Said Marshall: "It's funny, and it's a cool little nickname."
A chaotic first half ended in a 30-30 deadlock, as Georgia racked up 332 yards but committed three costly turnovers.
Tennessee safety Byron Moore intercepted a tipped Aaron Murray pass and raced 35 yards for a touchdown midway through the first quarter to tie the game 7-7. The Vols caused fumbles late in the second quarter to set up touchdown drives of only 8 and 18 yards, which helped Tennessee rally from a 27-10 deficit and take a 30-27 lead.
The Bulldogs pulled even on a 50-yard Marshall Morgan field goal at the halftime horn.
"We were beating ourselves," Gurley said. "Everyone was positive at halftime, and we knew we could go back out there and keep scoring points."
Georgia travels to South Carolina this week, while Tennessee will have its lone open date of the season.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...