Georgia shuts down Hendon Hooker, Tennessee in assertion win

ATHENS, Ga. — Defending nationwide champion Georgia won’t have been No. 1 within the first College Football Playoff rankings earlier this week, however the Bulldogs left little doubt Saturday who belongs in that prime spot.

Their 27-13 beatdown of No. 1 Tennessee earlier than a deafening crowd at Sanford Stadium was about as thorough because it will get. Senior quarterback Stetson Bennett handed for 257 yards and two touchdowns and ran for an additional, and the Georgia protection held Tennessee’s high-scoring offense with no landing till the ultimate minutes of the sport.

“The gamers on this staff purchased in,” stated Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who’s 5-0 at house towards AP top-10 ranked groups. “They understood the plan. They executed the plan. They performed extraordinarily bodily. They performed with out ego, they usually performed complementary soccer, which is all the time vital. I’m actually happy with the way in which our guys performed.”

The Bulldogs, who had been ranked No. 3 within the preliminary CFP rankings, dominated the road of scrimmage, as Bennett repeatedly had loads of time to throw the ball. He hit deep photographs down the sphere of 52, 49 and 37 yards. Meanwhile, the Vols had no solutions on offense for Georgia’s swarming protection. Tennessee got here into the sport main the nation in scoring (49.4 factors per recreation) however was compelled to punt thrice within the first quarter alone. That’s after punting a complete of 18 occasions within the earlier eight video games.

“I believe bodily toughness gained out. We talked all week about searching with a goal,” stated Smart, whose protection was lacking its prime pass-rusher, senior exterior linebacker Nolan Smith, who’s out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

Georgia (9-0) took a commanding lead within the SEC Eastern Division race and in addition put itself in prime place to make the College Football Playoff even when it had been to lose within the SEC championship recreation, which might be the same state of affairs to what occurred final season.

Bennett, 25, was once more the image of poise for the Bulldogs. “Just a winner,” Smart referred to as him. Bennett was just a little perturbed, too, over what he stated had been 600 to 700 calls he obtained all day Friday from Tennessee followers after his cellular phone quantity was leaked to the general public.

In addition to his two landing passes, Bennett scrambled for a 13-yard landing run within the first quarter and promptly held his hand to his helmet like he was making a cellphone name. He threw a 37-yard landing go to Ladd McConkey on the Bulldogs’ subsequent possession and turned to the place the Tennessee followers had been sitting and once more held his hand as much as his helmet.

“I would not say it was motivation,” Bennett stated of the cellphone calls, “however there’s in all probability one thing there, so yeah.”

The Vols (8-1) had been shaky early and could not money in for a landing after a Georgia fumble, and it solely bought worse for them from there. Pre-snap penalties, significantly false-start penalties, tormented a Tennessee offense that could not defend senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy frontrunner Hendon Hooker. The Vols additionally did not win many one-on-one matchups on the perimeter towards the Georgia defensive backs.

“We did not play our cleanest greatest soccer,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel stated. “Part of that’s they’ve a very good soccer staff. At the tip of the day, you hate the result, however you have to reset.”

It was Georgia’s sixth straight win over Tennessee, which was bullied bodily after scoring a mixed 92 factors in wins over ranked opponents Alabama and LSU earlier this season.

“They’re far more bodily than Alabama,” stated Tennessee receiver Jalin Hyatt, who was held to 6 catches for 63 yards after catching 11 landing passes in his earlier 4 video games. “Like I stated, the errors had been on us, and we have to enhance and do a greater job and be prepared [next week] for Missouri.”

In the third quarter, the rain began pouring down at Sanford Stadium, and the Bulldogs simply continued to pour it on a Tennessee staff that was greeted with chants of “overrated” by the Georgia scholar part. The Vols had been enjoying within the loudest and most hostile atmosphere they’ve confronted all season. They had been clearly rattled by the group noise, which reached rock-concert decibel ranges at occasions.

“Even when it rained, there wasn’t an empty seat in the home aside from those [Tennessee] bought,” Smart stated. “Our followers had been elite at this time. We requested them to be. They responded. They get the second-place vote.”

Hyatt stated it was so loud at occasions that the gamers could not hear the snap name from Hooker.

“Give their followers credit score. They disrupted what we needed to do on offense at this time,” Hyatt stated.

Georgia’s protection has allowed simply eight touchdowns in 9 video games this season and made life depressing for Hooker, who was held with no landing go for the primary time in 20 video games. He was additionally sacked six occasions (5 occasions within the second half) and completed with simply 195 passing yards.

“I really feel like we had been actually ready for at this time, and I felt prefer it confirmed,” stated Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo, who intercepted Hooker ultimately zone within the second quarter.

Tennessee’s deep passing recreation was rendered non-existent towards a Georgia protection that has been injury-plagued this season. But the Bulldogs confirmed off their depth and did not let the Vols’ up-tempo model and explosiveness have an effect on them the way in which it has others Tennessee has confronted this season. The Vols solely had one go play longer than 17 yards, they usually got here into the sport with an FBS-leading 36 performs from scrimmage of 30 yards or longer.

“You play Tennessee, they usually go for the knockout blow within the first spherical,” Smart stated. “You’ve bought to outlive it.”

Keeping Hooker at bay was vital. Entering the sport, he had accounted for 59 touchdowns and thrown simply three interceptions since taking up the beginning job in Week 3 final season. When he was slammed to the bottom on Tennessee’s ultimate fourth-down play, he was gradual to stand up and trotted gingerly to the sideline.

Heupel stated he can be “actual” about this loss together with his gamers.

“And on the identical time, perceive we’re soccer staff,” Heupel stated. “It did not occur tonight on the 60-minute clock. That’s the wonderful thing about sports activities. You solely get one alternative man. We’ll return to work.”