Georgia place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship (98) kicks the ball. The Georgia Bulldogs faced the Tennessee Volunteers on Oct. 5, 2019, in Knoxville, Tennessee. At the end of the first half, the Bulldogs led the Volunteers with a score of 26-14. (Photo/Ryan Cameron, rcameron@randb.com)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Rodrigo Blankenship is one of the best kickers in college football. But if Georgia had its way, he wouldn’t see the field nearly as much. 

The Bulldogs struggled to convert red-zone opportunities into touchdowns during their game against Tennessee on Saturday night. The Bulldogs were trailing 14-10 early in the second quarter before they came back to win 43-14.

Blankenship, a member of the media’s preseason All-SEC first team, kicked three field goals from 50 yards, 34 yards and 27 yards.

During Georgia’s second drive of the third quarter, junior running back D’Andre Swift rushed for eight yards to set up a second-and-2 from Tennessee’s 6-yard line. Two penalties later, Georgia was pushed back to the 25-yard line. 

Wide receiver Lawrence Cager had one touchdown against Tennessee. He almost had one in the first quarter as well, but the graduate transfer receiver from Miami was flagged for offensive pass interference. 

Cager said he didn't think Georgia's red-zone struggles were anything to be worried about. 

"Every game, you're going to have some plays that you wish you had back and [could] execute better," Cager said. "That's going to be every game, no matter whether you lose or win."

Red-zone problems are nothing new for the Georgia offense. Against Notre Dame, Blankenship had three field goals, including one from the Irish’s 14-yard line after quarterback Jake Fromm couldn’t convert a pass to wide receiver Tyler Simmons.

Mistakes near the goal line also plagued the Bulldogs last year. Against Auburn on Nov. 10. 2018, the Bulldogs settled for two close field goals in their first two possessions of an eventual 27-10 win. 

Against Tennessee, Georgia’s first-team offense ended its night with a touchdown. But it didn’t score until fourth down, when running back D’Andre Swift knocked it in from the 1-yard line. At the end of the third quarter, Swift failed to convert a fourth-and-1 from the Volunteers’ 39-yard line after the Bulldogs decided to leave Blankenship on the sidelines.

Before Saturday, the Bulldogs ranked 10th in the nation in red-zone offense. They scored on 95% of their red-zone drives in their first four games against Vanderbilt, Murray State, Arkansas State and Notre Dame.

Red-zone possessions don't sneak up on anybody. Georgia prepares for them like they do anything else. 

"Every situation you can name, we try to make that second nature to the team," Cager said. "I think that's what builds a winning team."

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