Stetson Photo

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) during the Bulldogs' game with Tennessee in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker)

No. 3 Georgia trails Tennessee 21-17 at halftime in a competitive SEC East showdown in Sanford Stadium. Here are some observations from The Red & Black:

Weird plays, weird scores

Trey Hill’s seen a shaky start to this season at center, but his second snap of the Tennessee game spelled absolute disaster for the Bulldogs.

Lined up at the Georgia 30-yard line, Hill’s snap soared over quarterback Stetson Bennett’s 5-foot-11 frame and was subsequently batted around by Bennett and Zamir White before being fully recovered by Tennessee’s Kivon Bennett in the end zone for an early touchdown. Georgia’s next offensive drive ended in a six-play, 18-yard effort that ended in a Jake Camarda punt.

Tennessee’s tying touchdown midway through the second quarter came after a bizarre Georgia fourth-and-1 attempt on the Bulldogs’ 36-yard line. Freshman receiver Jermaine Burton was called for illegal motion, but since it was a live-ball penalty, Bennett’s failed first down attempt caused the Bulldogs to turn over on downs.

Vol quarterback Jarrett Guarantano threw a quick 36-yard pass to Josh Palmer for a touchdown on first down, tying the game at 14-14 with 6:40 to go in the half.

Georgia drove down the field minutes before halftime thanks to good field position off a 42-yard kickoff return by Kenny McIntosh to the Georgia 42-yard line. The Bulldogs headed into halftime stopped at the 1-yard line on fourth-and-goal, allowing Tennessee to lead 21-17 at the end of the half despite gaining 57 yards on the last drive of the half.

Vols match up to Georgia defense

Guarantano began to heat up late in the half, driving Tennessee 67 yards down the field in six plays for a quick touchdown to pull Tennessee ahead 21-17. Guarantano connected with Palmer for the second consecutive touchdown drive that left the Bulldogs’ secondary exposed.

The Bulldogs ended the half giving up 78 yards on chunk passing plays, with the Guarantano’s two touchdown passes to Palmer accounting for most of the yardage. Guarantano finished the half completing 11 of 13 for 124 yards and two touchdowns.

Georgia’s defense has given up more points to the Vols in the first half — 14 — than it had in the entire games against Arkansas (10) in Week 1 or Auburn (6) in Week 2.

Rushing away on offense

A lot of the attention around the Bulldogs’ run game is focused around White and James Cook, who didn’t play with a shoulder injury, but sophomore McIntosh showed he can pull his own weight in the backfield on Saturday.

In Georgia’s first touchdown drive, McIntosh gained 18 rush yards on two attempts and hauled in a 29-yard reception to put Georgia at the Tennessee 1-yard line. White’s 1-yard rush brought the game to 7-7 in the first quarter.

McIntosh continued to pound for a total of 34 yards on six rushes and 36 yards on two receptions in the first half.

Meanwhile, Bennett showed his dual threat capabilities with back-to-back long runs that ended in Georgia’s second touchdown and first lead of the game.

Burton’s 43-yard rush in the second quarter helped the Bulldogs into field goal range, and Jack Podlesny pulled Georgia ahead 17-14 with less than five minutes to go in the half.

The Bulldogs finished with 225 total yards in the first half compared to the Vols’ 143. Georgia’s stat line still accounts for the 30-yard botched snap-turned touchdown Georgia suffered in the first drive.

It’s worth noting Tennessee’s defense was missing a key piece for most of the first half. Midway through the first quarter, senior Volunteer linebacker Deandre Johnson’s late hit on Bennett resulted in an ejection for targeting. Leading up to Saturday, Johnson led the SEC with 3 and a half sacks.