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October 10, 2008
Tennessee at Georgia Preview
Not only did Georgia suffer its first loss in its last game, but star running back Knowshon Moreno sustained a severely bruised elbow en route to his worst effort of the season.
If Moreno returns to action as expected, he'll face the team that held him to the lowest rushing output of his career.
Moreno and the 10th-ranked Bulldogs try to erase the memories of a disheartening loss and try to avoid a third straight defeat to struggling Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee on Saturday.
Georgia (4-1, 1-1) saw its hopes of playing for the BCS championship take a major hit with a 41-30 loss to then-No. 8 Alabama on Sept. 27. Moreno, considered a Heisman Trophy candidate before the game, had nine carries for a season-low 34 yards and suffered the injury as the Bulldogs fell behind 31-0 by halftime and never recovered.
Despite the bruised elbow, Georgia coach Mark Richt has indicated the sophomore will play against the Volunteers.
However, Moreno wasn't very effective in his only previous game against Tennessee (2-3, 0-2), a 35-14 road loss on Oct. 6, 2007. He carried 13 times for a career-low 30 yards as the Bulldogs fell into a 28-0 hole at the half and never mounted a serious rally.
That was Georgia's last loss until the game with Alabama two weeks ago. The Volunteers have won the last two meetings against the Bulldogs, as well as their last two visits to Athens.
"We've got tremendous respect for Tennessee," Georgia fullback Shaun Chapas said. "The past two years, they've really taken it to us. It's going to be another tough SEC game, and we've got to work hard this week to get ready to play."
Georgia may respect Tennessee, but Vols coach Phil Fulmer has come under fire for his team's poor performance. The Volunteers have averaged 10.3 points over their last three games, with SEC losses to Florida and Auburn before a lackluster 13-9 home win over gritty Northern Illinois last week.
The victory came in sophomore Nick Stephens' first career start at quarterback after Fulmer benched Jonathan Crompton for poor play in the two conference losses. Stephens completed 10-of-17 passes for 156 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown to Denarius Moore.
"Nick didn't disappoint me," Fulmer said. "I was really proud of the way he managed the game and threw the ball, for the most part. There's certainly room to grow, and he'll do that."
Stephens didn't get much help from the ground game, as Tennessee was limited to a season-low 69 rushing yards on 32 carries. The Vols will be without offensive linemen Ramone Johnson and Darius Myers, who were suspended Tuesday for two games for lack of academic effort and violation of team rules.
"We have a lot more things to work on and get better on for Georgia, because obviously we're going to have to play better to beat them," Vols offensive coordinator Dave Clawson said.
Georgia, meanwhile, has won nine of its last 10 games when coming off an open week.
"I hope it's a positive thing for us," Richt said. "I pulled out my notes from a year ago before our open date and looked at our goals in those two weeks leading up to our next game. It's to get healthy, get some rest and work on our fundamentals, and we're on track."
Richt has been unhappy with his team's discipline. Georgia is averaging 87.4 penalty yards, compared to 33 per game for its opponents.
"There's been at least 10 penalties every game," Richt said. "I've got to send a stronger message than I've been sending to this point. That's my No. 1 priority right now."