Tennessee Vols leave Georgia Bulldogs' defense reeling

Tennessee Vols leave Georgia Bulldogs' defense reeling

October 6th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Grantham and coach Mark Richt talk before a 2011 game at Sanford Stadium.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

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KNOXVILLE -- After struggling defensively on third down in last week's win over LSU, the Georgia Bulldogs struggled on third and fourth downs during Saturday's 34-31 overtime escape at Tennessee.

The Bulldogs were shredded for 252 second-half yards and another 25 in overtime. Their big reprieve occurred when Volunteers receiver Pig Howard raced around right end but fumbled through the end zone to end Tennessee's overtime possession.

"To be a good defense, you've got to be able to put the fire out," Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "When the other team gets going because of a missed field goal or a blocked punt and their crowd gets into it, when you go back out on the field, you've got to put the fire out. That was a learning experience for us, but we're going to move forward with a victory."

One of Georgia's best defensive stands occurred early in the fourth quarter after the Bulldogs had taken a 24-17 lead. Georgia held Tennessee to 4 yards on three plays, but the Bulldogs were flagged for delay of game when the Volunteers were set to punt.

That turned a fourth-and-6 into a fourth-and-1 from Tennessee's 34-yard line, and Justin Worley made a misdirection pitch to Rajion Neal that gained 43 yards.

"When you're on defense, you can't flinch like you're going toward the line of scrimmage to make them move," Grantham said. "I didn't see that play, but when you have a team stopped, you don't want to give them the ball."

Wooten's big catch

Georgia fifth-year senior Rantavious Wooten made the biggest catch of his career with a 2-yard touchdown from Aaron Murray on third-and-goal with five seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.

"I've just started playing inside receiver, so I didn't know what the play was," Wooten said. "Murray changed it to a hot route, and I knew I could get inside leverage on the defensive back. That's basically what happened."

Wooten had a career-high six catches for 38 yards and two touchdowns. He also has the rare accomplishment of a scoring reception in five consecutive seasons, having scored on a 26-yard reception against South Carolina in 2011 before missing the rest of that season with a concussion and receiving a medical redshirt.

Morgan shines

Bulldogs sophomore kicker Marshall Morgan made a career-long 56-yard field goal less than three minutes into Saturday's game, which also was the longest field goal in Neyland Stadium history.

It would not be his favorite, as Morgan's 42-yarder in overtime sealed the victory.

"These are the days you dream about when you're a kicker," he said. "I've only had one time in my life, back in high school, when I made a game-winner, and it was a short one. This is a great feeling."

Morgan did have a 39-yard attempt hit the left upright early in the third quarter, a miss that could have given the Bulldogs a 20-3 lead.

"I just caught a little grass, and it was nothing much more than that," he said. "I hit it pretty well. It's not like I hit it terrible, but I'm glad I didn't have to finish with that one."

Odds and ends

Georgia's offense is 6-of-8 this season on fourth-down conversions. ... Sophomore punter Collin Barber suffered a concussion after having his punt blocked late in the third quarter. He was replaced by Adam Erickson. ... Junior defensive end Ray Drew collected two sacks after tallying one last week against LSU. ... Former Ridgeland High cornerback Devin Bowman played on special teams, his first action this season. ... Freshman safety Quincy Mauger and freshman cornerback Shaq Wiggins made their first career starts. ... Senior safety Connor Norman sat out with a concussion.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.