ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia's 35-32 triumph over Tennessee on Saturday afternoon was anything but predictable, except for Todd Gurley's continued dominance.
Gurley rushed 28 times for a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns as the Bulldogs repeatedly held off the improved and resilient Volunteers. The 6-foot-1, 226-pound junior had a 51-yard scoring scamper, a 26-yard run that featured a hurdle of safety Brian Randolph, and a 4-yard run on fourth-and-3 on the game's final play.
"I knew Todd was getting tired, but I knew he was digging deep," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "That might have been his most impressive day just from a gut-check and a guy making plays when we absolutely had to have them."
The No. 12 Bulldogs improved to 3-1 for the season and 1-1 in Southeastern Conference play before a Sanford Stadium sellout crowd of 92,746. The Vols dropped to 2-2, 0-1.
Gurley's rushing output was the most by a Georgia player since 1992, when Garrison Hearst shredded Vanderbilt for 246 yards. Hearst finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting that season, and Gurley is certainly in this year's hunt with 610 yards through four games.
In the fourth quarter alone, Gurley had 12 carries for 129 yards, including the 51-yard score with 9:31 remaining.
"Every team we play is going to have eight or nine people in the box," Gurley said. "You've got to keep pounding, and sooner or later, you're going to get that big one."
Said center David Andrews: "The kid is a beast. Everyone knows that, and as we keep him healthy and keep him going, we can do some special things."
Gurley's 51-yard score gave the Bulldogs a 28-17 lead, but Tennessee quickly regrouped when quarterback Justin Worley returned from having X-rays performed on his elbow. Worley directed a four-play, 52-yard drive that culminated with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Pig Howard, and his two-point conversion pass to tight end Daniel Helm made it 28-25.
Worley wound up completing 23 of 35 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns.
"I thought Justin Worley did some great things when he came back in," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "He showed some grit at the end."
Tennessee's defense stiffened after Gurley hurdled Randolph for a 26-yard gain out to the Georgia 40, but Collin Barber's punt was downed inside UT's 1-yard line with 4:38 remaining. After Worley threw incomplete to Marquez North on first down, a bad exchange between him and Jalen Hurd resulted in a ball bouncing loose in the end zone.
Bulldogs defensive end Josh Dawson got the first crack at recovering it.
"You usually see people jumping on the ball, but there was no pile," Dawson said. "I was just trying to take advantage of my opportunity. Everything kind of blanked out and I jumped on the ball."
Dawson's second fumble recovery of the afternoon put the Bulldogs up 35-25.
Georgia racked up 436 yards yet was just 1-for-10 on converting third downs into firsts. The Bulldogs made eight lost-yardage stops but allowed 401 yards.
"What a wild game," Richt said. "These were two teams that played their tails off."
And on a day when much didn't go as expected -- the Bulldogs entered as 17-point favorites -- the player who everybody felt was the best on the field was ultimately the difference.
"I've never had a 200-yard game before," Gurley said. "I had them in high school but not since college, so it's been almost three years. Those guys up front blocked their [rear ends] off and did a great job."
Tennessee will host Florida this Saturday at noon, while Georgia will host Vanderbilt at 4. Both games will be televised by the SEC Network.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.