Even though the Georgia Bulldogs are 11-0 (8-0) on the season and riding a nation's best 28-game winning streak, they briefly trailed on the road vs. the SEC East foe Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville on Saturday. Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright hit pay dirt on a 75-yard scamper up the middle of the field on the Vols' play from scrimmage. Neyland Stadium was rocking, until Georgia took over.
The Dawgs then proceeded to outscore the Vols 38-3 the rest of the way, winning comfortably yet again over their division rival, 38-10. Georgia has gone 8-0 in SEC play the last three seasons. The first two times they pulled it off, Kirby Smart's team went on to win the College Football Playoff. Alabama looms large in Atlanta, but the Vols are licking their wounds after another year gone awry.
When asked about what the hell happened on the first play from scrimmage, Smart offered us this.
“I talked to [Georgia DC Glenn] Schumann before the game, we’re gonna let them score - let’s just get it over with."
Clearly, he is joking, but he did hold his new hotshot defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann accountable for the mental lapses made by his usually stellar linebacker corps. It was a bad moment.
Georgia has Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate left before facing the Crimson Tide in Atlanta in two weeks.
Kirby Smart addresses the mental lapse on Tennessee's lone touchdown
Even though Neyland Stadium can be louder than the inside of a drum when the Vols are cooking, Smart has owned Tennessee for the better part of his duration in Athens. Outside of getting Dobbs Nail Boot-ed in his first game of the rivalry back in 2016, Smart has won every meeting vs. Tennessee since. The Dawgs have rattled seven victories in a row over their fellow SEC blue-blooded program.
While it isn't like Josh Heupel's team is devoid of talent, he may need to pivot off starting quarterback Joe Milton III in favor of Nico Iamaleava sooner rather than later. Milton has a gun, but has no earthly idea where the ball is going. On his first pass from scrimmage on Saturday he completed a nine-yard pass to himself after it bounced off the helmet of one of his interior lineman. That felt very ominous.
Overall, you have to applaud two things out of Smart and his staff in this. One, they can laugh at themselves for making a mental error like this is a critical game for the program. Tennessee seized control early in the game, albeit very briefly. Smart did not come unglued over giving up the 75-yard touchdown. He trusted his players and coaches to be able to stay the course and keep it together.
The other is far more important. Smart has several advantages over his coaching contemporaries, but one that often gets overlooked is his ability to make adjustments to his defense in-game, oftentimes before halftime. Georgia committed to stopping the run from then on out, forcing Milton to try to beat them with his inaccurate arm. Obviously, we all saw what transpired after that in Neyland.
While Georgia looks to be well on its way back to the playoff, maybe Tennessee will go to Florida?