Georgia players celebrate on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020 in Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. Going into the half, the Volunteers led the Bulldogs 21-17. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

Tennessee entered Sanford Stadium as the only SEC team that hadn’t committed a turnover in 2020, but it left Athens with three turnovers as the Volunteers fell 44-21 to the Bulldogs in a competitive SEC East matchup Saturday. 

Ironically, Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano’s first three turnovers of the season— two fumbles and an interception — shifted the top-15 matchup to Georgia’s control after leading an impressive first half attack for the Volunteers. Guarantano helped Tennessee to a 21-17 lead over the Bulldogs at halftime but couldn’t get out of his own way in the last 30 minutes. 

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Azeez Ojulari showed off his pass rush ability throughout the second half and came out from halftime at full speed. During the Vols’ first drive of the third quarter, Ojulari sacked Guranatano on third-and-14 from Tennessee’s 21-yard line, causing the redshirt senior to fumble the ball and watch Ojulari recover at the Tennessee 15. 

As Ojulari placed the “savage” shoulder spikes on his shoulders, Georgia’s offense wasn’t able to get much going, settling for a 34-yard Jack Podlesny field goal to bring the Bulldogs within a single point of the Volunteers at 21-20. 

But it was enough for a total momentum shift — and another Georgia turnover opportunity.

Tennessee’s next drive was ended in three plays as Guarantano was charged with another turnover and threw an interception to Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes at the Tennessee 36-yard line. Georgia’s offense wasn’t able to turn that turnover into a touchdown either, but Podlesny’s 51-yarder brought the Bulldogs to a 23-21 lead that wouldn’t be caught for the remainder of the contest.

After Georgia’s offense extended its lead to 20 with two touchdowns on consecutive drives, Guarantano suffered another sack-turned-fumble at the hands of Monty Rice. Rice recovered the ball and ran it back 20 yards for a Georgia touchdown. Podlesny’s extra point brought the Bulldogs to a 44-21 lead with just under 10 minutes to go in the game. 

While Georgia’s defense was able to shut Tennessee down after halftime, the Bulldogs eventually caught another breath on offense and scored 27 unanswered points in the second half. 

The Volunteers were never able to get a rush game established, finishing the game with minus-1 yard on the ground. Georgia’s pass defense came into full control late, holding Tennessee to 91 pass yards in the second half compared to the 124 pass yards it gained in the first half. The Volunteers didn’t score after halftime.

Each of the Bulldogs who came down with a turnover against Guarantano had strong days statistically. Ojulari finished with two sacks, two tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. Rice finished with two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a sack. Stokes finished with an interception and two pass break-ups. Linebacker Channing Tindall added to the strong performance with two sacks and two tackles for loss.