ATHENS, Ga. - A familiar face and a new face cracked the starting lineup on Georgia's offensive line Saturday against Tennessee.
Junior left tackle Trinton Sturdivant got his first start since the 2009 season opener at Oklahoma State, when he tore an ACL for the second time in as many seasons. He played two-thirds of last week's game at Colorado and teamed Saturday with left guard Cordy Glenn, center Ben Jones, right guard Kenarious Gates and right tackle Clint Boling on the first-team unit.
The new kid was Gates, a 6-foot-5, 307-pound freshman from Grantville, Ga., who not only started for line coach Stacy Searels but got his first action of the season.
"Gates played well from what I could see and from also what you can listen to," head coach Mark Richt said. "With that headset, sometimes when Coach Searels is going ballistic about something, he'll usually call out who it was. I didn't hear his name and really didn't hear much from the O-line at all as far as any frustration."
Georgia piled up 402 total yards, including 353 through the first three quarters when the 41-14 final score was established.
Richt said Tennessee wanted to pressure Jones and both guards, so his Bulldogs slid their protection. That helped prevent the Bulldogs from putting Gates in bad situations down after down.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Gates was going to start two weeks ago at Mississippi State but got hurt during practice that week.
"He has done a nice job of practicing and deserved to play," Bobo said. "I thought we protected well. We're not running the ball like we would like, but we've just got to keep pushing and fighting and playing.
"That's what we did today. We kept playing."
Hey, remember us?
Tennessee freshman receiver Da'Rick Rogers provided heartache in Georgia recruiting circles earlier this year when the former Calhoun High standout switched his commitment from the in-state Bulldogs just before signing day. Rogers caught a pass Saturday with 11 minutes left in the second quarter but was tackled for a 3-yard loss by cornerback Brandon Boykin.
"I didn't think they would throw to him," Boykin said. "I definitely wanted to make a hit."
Georgia fans cheered the play but started booing when Rogers was announced as the receiver.
After the game, the Bulldogs received their first 2012 commitment from C.J. Curry, a 6-2, 185-pound receiver from Gainesville, Ga.
Redshirt freshman walk-on Blake Sailors was feeling pretty low 10 minutes before halftime after getting flagged for a block in the back on a Logan Gray punt return. He was feeling much better a couple of minutes later when Eric Gordon bobbled a Drew Butler punt and Sailors snatched it out of the air for a fumble recovery at the Tennessee 37.
The Bulldogs scored three plays later on a 22-yard pass from Aaron Murray to A.J. Green to take a 24-7 lead.
"Right when he caught it, it popped straight up in the air and came right into my hands," Sailors said. "People had to pick me up to get me off the ground, because I wasn't letting go of the ball. When I came to the sideline, everybody was like, 'There's that redemption for that block in the back.'
"That was a good return, and to get it called back because of me was pretty bad."
Odds and ends
With Branden Smith out indefinitely with a concussion, junior receiver Green made his first career punt return less than five minutes into the game and gained 7 yards. ... Sophomore Shawn Williams got his first career start at free safety. ... Backup safety Nick Williams suffered a right hamstring injury on kickoff coverage in the final minute of the first quarter and did not return. ... Junior kicker Blair Walsh improved to 11-of-12 this season on field-goal attempts after successful first-half tries from 42 and 20 yards. ... Sophomore tailback Carlton Thomas missed the game with a hamstring injury, while sophomore outside linebacker Cornelius Washington sat out with concussion-like symptoms.