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Tennessee Game Grades: Georgia Edition

An incredible finish to the Tennessee game doesn't mean everything was perfect for the Vols. See how each unit grades out in Tennessee Game Grades: Georgia.

Is this is a season of destiny? Not only has Tennessee ended several streaks in the last two weeks, but they did so today with some magic. The Vols ended an eleven year losing streak to Florida last week and ended a decade long losing streak in Athens, Georgia. In addition, Butch Jones secured his first road victory against a Top 25 team in his Tennessee tenure. And they did so in magical fashion, with a 42 yard hail mary pass as time expired.

While Tennessee sits at 5-0 and has a commanding lead in the SEC East, not everything is perfect. Tennessee can’t seem to put together a good first half. The Vols also struggled against strong-armed Jacob Eason and Georgia‘s formidable rushing attack.

Still, Tennessee finds itself at 5-0 and faces a Top 10 matchup with Texas A&M next week in College Station.

Tennessee Game Grades: Georgia Edition

Offense: B-

Tennessee moved the ball decently against Georgia’s defense, but the story of today was turnovers. Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara both had fumbles, Hurd’s erasing a touchdown. And Joshua Dobbs had an interception late in the game. Were it not for the turnovers, Tennessee could have won this game with a little more comfort.

Offensive Stat of the Game: Tennessee’s 3 turnovers.

Quarterback: B
Joshua Dobbs continues to be the engine that makes this Tennessee team run. Others have their roles, but so goes Joshua Dobbs, so go the Tennessee Vols. Dobbs was effective passing today, going 16-26 (61.5%) for 230 yards. He threw three touchdowns and had the aforementioned interception. I’ve beat the drum all offseason that Dobbs doesn’t have to win the game with his arm. Today was a perfect example. Those stats are average for a top-tier program quarterback, but it was enough for Tennessee to secure the road win. Admittedly, he was less than 200 yards until the hail mary. He was much less effective rushing the ball, but that seemed to be by design. Dobbs only had two, maybe three designed runs or keeps on the read option. When Dobbs did pull it down and run, he had two key third down conversions and touchdown run. But Dobbs’ true value to this team is his calm demeanor, leadership, and understanding of how to execute the offense. This team will go as far as Joshua Dobbs takes them.

Running Backs: C+
Both Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara had key fumbles in this game. Hurd’s fumble, as anyone on earth with a television has already seen, cost Tennessee a critical touchdown. Kamara’s led to another Georgia score. The two backs accounted for only 104 yards on the ground. Kamara finished the game after Hurd’s touchdown reception, on what looked to be a coach’s decision. There will be considerable discussion about this in all of the post game chatter.

Receivers: B+ 
It’s hard to look past Jauan Jennings‘ hail mary touchdown catch, but the receivers didn’t have a perfect game. They were still, however, the best unit on the field for Tennessee. While Hurd and Kamara didn’t run well, they did contribute six receptions for 76 yards and two touchdowns. While the receivers had two drops in the first half, they did have some critical third down receptions, especially Preston Williams, Josh Malone, and Josh Smith. A usually good blocking receiver corps struggled a little blocking on the edge today, but Georgia’s defensive backs are a physical group. Jenning’s last second catch is very appropriate for this edition of Tennessee football.

Offensive Line: B-
Much of the rushing frustration from the running backs is shared with the offensive line. The offensive line struggled to consistently control the line of scrimmage and open holes for the backs. They have shown an ability to do so, but they haven’t been able to exert their ability on a consistent basis. They have showed progress from the opening week, but still have a ways to go.

Defense: B-

A Tennessee defense that has been lock-down in the second half of the four previous games had two gigantic mishaps in the second half of this game. That’s in addition to the continued first half struggles, which is shared with the whole team.

Defensive Stat of the Game: Georgia with 392 yards of offense.
Defensive Line: B
The defensive line was excellent in pass rushing, and when Georgia was in obvious passing downs they were great. This was evidenced with the sack-fumble-touchdown trifecta against Georgia in the fourth quarter. Against the run, however, the defensive line struggled to take up space and make some tackles. Georgia had 181 yards of rushing, and seem to go away from the running attack later in the game. They’ll be tested with better offensive lines and solid rushing attacks over the next two weeks.
Linebackers: C
As great as Colton Jumper, Cortez McDowell, and the rest of the linebackers played last week, they came back to earth this week. Tackling the Georgia running backs was the most noticeable weakness. It seemed as thought they were more focused on stripping the ball than making the first tackle. That allowed Georgia’s running backs to consistently turn 3-, 4-, and 5-yards gains into 6-, 7-, and 8-yard gains. They’ll be tested next week with a mobile quarterback and an offense that has a plethora of offensive weapons.
Defensive Backs: C
A short secondary showed some weaknesses in coverage today. Georgia had two long touchdown passes in second half, including the disastrous deep bomb with only seconds to play. Georgia’s freshman tight end, Isaac Nauta, also had a long touchdown reception in the second half. Todd Kelly, Jr. struggled in coverage multiple times today, especially with Nauta. Foreman, after having an interception on the previous drive, gave up the deep touchdown to Riley Ridley. Micah Abernathy was late on rotation on several occasions. Jacob Eason is good, but he should not have had as much success today as he did. This unit will be tested against the best receiving corps in the nation next week.

Special Teams: A-

Trevor Daniel was again the special teams star. Daniel was able to keep Tennessee in the game with field position and had his last punt downed inside the Georgia six-yard line. Evan Berry had three chances for returns, and two of them were productive, including the last one with ten seconds remaining. Aaron Medley didn’t have a chance to kick any field goals, but was solid on kickoffs. Tennessee’s coverage teams were good, giving up only one significant kickoff return and limiting punt return yardage.

Coaching: B

I’m not big on questioning coaching, but it still seems like Dobbs is limited in his ability to keep the ball on read options. Tennessee went away from their staple plays on offense today, and that made the offense seem a little disjointed. It’s hard to mark against the offensive coaches too much, as Tennessee was able to consistently move the ball, but stunted themselves with three critical turnovers.

Another solid defensive game plan. What Bob Shoop has done with three key players — two All-Americans and an All-Conference player — is widely underappreciated. In years past, injuries like this would have crushed Tennessee’s hopes for a division championship. Shoop is easily the most valuable assistant coach on staff, and must be considered for the Broyles Award this season.

Overall, the program looks to be in good hands. Butch Jones’ product is showing on the field. And regardless of how they got here (OT versus Appalachian State, hail mary today), Tennessee is 5-0 and in the national conversation in a tough conference. You can’t argue with the results.

Looking Ahead

Next  game: Texas A&M (Away). With essentially a two-game lead on their two closest division rivals, Florida and Georgia, a win against the Aggies next week almost assures Tennessee of an East Division title. This will likely be the national game of the week, as it will be the only Top 10 matchup, and could be one of only two Top 25 matchups depending on how far Florida State falls this week. Alabama at Arkansas will be the other. Could the Vols be on GameDay for a third time in five weeks?

The Aggies will be a tough test for the Vols. On offense, Trevor Knight is having a redemption season and the wide receivers are probably the best group of receivers in the nation. On defense, the John Chavis-coached Aggies are tougher than in previous years, and Myles Garrett is the only defense end playing better than Derek Barnett right now. We’ll know whether Tennessee is a division champ or  a contender for the national championship after next week.

But for now, Vols fans should enjoy a second straight week of exaltation.

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