KNOXVILLE — If it isn't broken, then why fix it?
Such was the case for Georgia's defense at the midway mark of Saturday's 41-0 slaughtering of Tennessee inside Neyland Stadium.
"At halftime, I didn't need to go over and see the defensive players," Bulldogs second-year coach Kirby Smart said. "They had it under control. There were no adjustments."
Georgia intercepted Volunteers quarterback Quinten Dormady on the first play from scrimmage and didn't allow a first down until the No. 7 Bulldogs had grabbed a 10-0 lead, and that was when the game was in question. By the end of Saturday's devastation, Georgia had held Tennessee to seven first downs and 142 total yards.
And no points, marking the first time Tennessee had been blanked since a 31-0 loss to visiting Florida in 1994.
"This is an amazing feeling," Georgia sophomore safety J.R. Reed said. "You don't shut out a good program like that ever. To come to someone's home and shut them out like that is an amazing feeling for the offense and the defense and the team as a whole."
Said Bulldogs sophomore cornerback Tyrique McGhee, who intercepted Dormady on the first play: "That's pretty cool as a defense to make history. Our team doesn't let up."
The best chance Tennessee had at points occurred early in the second quarter, when Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm was intercepted by cornerback Justin Martin at the Georgia 27. A John Kelly run gained 2 yards, but a bad exchange between center Jashon Robertson and Dormady resulted in a fumble that Lorenzo Carter recovered at the 29.
Tennessee never ran another play in Bulldogs territory as Georgia recorded its most lopsided win in the series since a 44-0 drubbing in Athens in 1981, when Herschel Walker was a sophomore.
"You can't let your foot off their throat," Carter said. "We had to keep going and keep fighting hard, because it's a 60-minute game. To us, it was 0-0 at halftime. Our number one goal was to stop the run. Once you stop the run, everything else will fall in place.
"We played great. We'll watch the film and fix some things, because we didn't do everything perfect, but we played hard. When you play hard, you can cover up some mistakes."
Kelly entered Saturday leading the Southeastern Conference with 450 yards and 112.5 yards per game. He was held to 44 yards on 16 carries.
The Bulldogs were even more dominant than they were in last weekend's 31-3 whipping of Mississippi State inside Sanford Stadium. With a team that has won its first two SEC games by a combined 72-3, Smart knows there now are different kinds of challenges.
"We're starting to see how good we can be, but they can't start believing the hype," he said. "They've got to stay focused and keep working, and that's the challenge our coaching staff and organization has. That's the hardest thing to do in college football.
"Our team is starting to buy into that if you form good habits, good habits start to form you. If you form those in practice, they carry over into games. They're starting to do that with a little more confidence."
Georgia improved to 5-0 overall and will look to go 6-0 this week with a trip to Vanderbilt, which is coming off consecutive losses to Alabama and Florida. The Bulldogs will do so after two consecutive dominant defensive performances, which has Georgia's offensive components quite pleased as well.
The Bulldogs racked up 294 rushing yards against the Vols, with senior Nick Chubb leading the way with 109 yards on 16 carries.
"It's very comforting when you know our defense is going to get a three-and-out," Chubb said. "I think we're playing well. We're practicing very hard, and I think it's carrying over to the games."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.