Ever since freshman quarterback Erik Ainge led Tennessee to a 19-14 upset win at Georgia in 2004, annual games between the Vols and Bulldogs have been decided by double digits:
2005 Georgia, 27-14
2006 Tennessee, 51-33
2007 Tennessee, 35-14
2008 Georgia, 26-14
2009 Tennessee, 45-19
2010 Georgia, 41-14
Georgia's past two trips to Tennessee's Neyland Stadium have resulted in the two worst beatings the Bulldogs have endured in an opposing stadium with Mark Richt as coach. The Bulldogs were humiliated 35-14 in 2007 before regrouping to finish No. 2 nationally, and the '09 journey yielded a 45-19 thumping that set a modern Georgia standard for offensive futility.
Whether facing the Vols of Phillip Fulmer or those of Lane Kiffin, the Bulldogs arrived with no energy and were promptly waxed.
"I felt like we were dead even before the game two years ago, and that's why we ended up getting our butts kicked," junior cornerback Sanders Commings said. "That's the only time since I've been here that we've been dead and not ready to play a game."
Tennessee raced to a 28-0 halftime lead in the '07 contest, which was the largest halftime deficit of the Richt era at that time. The Vols led 21-12 at the break two years ago, with Brandon Boykin's 100-yard kickoff return early in the second quarter keeping the Bulldogs close despite their lethargy.
"That's something we've got to look at as a coaching staff, because we have not played well there the last two times," Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "We've really played kind of flat as a team, and we've got to make sure we're ready to go. I know they're going to be ready to go."
Said Richt: "It's certainly been tough for us these last two times, and we need to turn that around."
Georgia had won three straight in Neyland until the '07 debacle, when Vols quarterback Erik Ainge completed 10 of 12 first-half passes for 115 yards and tailback Arian Foster had 11 first-half rushes for 76 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulldogs had two first downs and 59 yards before halftime.
Two years ago, UT quarterback Jonathan Crompton erupted from a miserable year-plus stretch to complete 20 of 27 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns. Montario Hardesty rushed for 97 yards and a score, but the most amazing aspect of the '09 contest is that Georgia's offense failed to cross Tennessee's 30-yard line.
The Bulldogs scored on Boykin's kickoff return, a 52-yard Blair Walsh field goal, a safety and a 28-yard Bacarri Rambo interception return. Their failure to reach the red zone was a first since a 34-3 loss at Clemson in 1990.
Georgia's last two games at Neyland were lunchtime kickoffs, but the Bulldogs will face the Vols this week at night.
"I think that adds a little more energy for us," senior center Ben Jones said. "You get to sleep in late, and then you're ready to play. I love going to games when the emotions are flying. It makes us as pumped up as the other team is."
That's an aspect the Bulldogs could use after their last two Neyland experiences.
"We didn't go out there with any spark last time," Rambo said. "Some people didn't want to play, and you could tell by their body language and how they were acting. I know these guys now are hungry and that we would never let that happen anymore."
Bulldogs tailback Isaiah Crowell is the SEC freshman of the week for a third time this season after rushing for 104 yards in Saturday's win over Mississippi State. ... Georgia's game at Vanderbilt next week also will have a 7 p.m. EDT kickoff and will be televised on Fox Sports South.
Contact David Paschall at dpaschall at timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.