Brian Herrien, a junior running back from Douglasville, Georgia, rushes the ball during the University of Georgia vs. the University of Tennessee football game on Saturday, September 29, 2018, in Athens, Georgia. 

The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs beat the Volunteers 38-12 in the first conference game of the season at Sanford Stadium.

Here are some observations from The Red & Black.

General observations

Georgia picked up its third win against a divisional opponent this season with the victory over Tennessee, and it did so by scoring less than 40 points for the first time in five games.

Even though Georgia’s offense was inconsistent in the first half, the Bulldogs’ defense never allowed Tennessee to find its rhythm until it was too late. The Volunteers had just 68 yards of total offense and earned only three first downs when the two teams headed to the locker room for the intermission. The Bulldogs, however, had 238 yards and 12 first downs.

Georgia was up 17-0 at the break due to rushing touchdowns from tight end Isaac Nauta and running back D’Andre Swift. Nauta’s touchdown was unconventional, as he picked up a fumble from quarterback Jake Fromm and ran it 31 yards down the south side of the field for the score.

The offense, led by the interchanging quarterback play of Fromm and Justin Fields, pulled away with time-consuming scoring drives at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second. The two drives were almost identical in that they lasted 5:07 and 5:08, respectively, and they established a 24-point lead for the Bulldogs with only a quarter and 10 minutes remaining.

Tennessee did eventually cut into the deficit, though, as Volunteer quarterback Jarrett Guarantano found Josh Palmer for a 37-yard touchdown. Tennessee went for a two-point conversion but was unsuccessful as Georgia senior Deandre Baker was there to break up the pass attempt.

Georgia’s offense continued to sputter with two consecutive punts, and Tennessee responded with another touchdown early in the fourth quarter when Guarantano found Ty Chandler for the 35-yard score, but again the two-point conversion attempt failed.

Four players who mattered

Justin Fields: Fields played sparingly, but he impacted the game when given the chance. The freshman finished a third quarter drive with a 12-yard rushing touchdown in which he broke a tackle before finding the end zone with a full extension, and after Tennessee pulled to within 12 points in the fourth quarter, he reentered the game as the offense gained a critical first down. By the end of the day, the freshman had two rushing touchdowns.

D’Andre Walker: Walker recorded Georgia’s only unassisted sack of the game, and he remains the only Georgia player with a solo sack this season. The senior tallied four tackles and was a constant focal point of the Bulldogs’ run stops and pass rushes.

Brian Herrien: Herrien put the game away by rushing for 30 yards on Georgia’s 75-yard scoring drive that ended with D’Andre Swift’s second touchdown of the day, which pushed the score to 31-12. The running back finished the game with 56 rushing yards.

Isaac Nauta: Nauta opened the game’s scoring when he picked up Fromm’s fumble and barreled down the field and into the end zone. It was only his second touchdown of the season and the first rushing touchdown of his Georgia career.

Other notes

Freshman Cade Mays started the game at right guard in place of the injured Ben Cleveland, who fractured his left fibula against Missouri on Sept. 22. Mays is a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, and Saturday marked his second start of the season.

Freshmen Justin Fields, James Cook and Mays each played snaps during the win, meaning that they are now ineligible for redshirts this season. The NCAA announced this summer that players seeking a redshirt would be allowed to appear in up to four games without jeopardizing the ability to redshirt the season, but each of these players has now appeared in their fifth game.

After missing his first field goal attempt of the season against Missouri on Sept. 22, Roderigo Blakenship successfully kicked a 43-yard field goal in the second quarter and connected on each extra point attempt.

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