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October 8, 2006
Game Notes: Vols play opportunistic second half
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ATHENS, Ga. – The matchup between the nation's top scoring defense and the Southeastern Conference's No. 1 passing offense was no contest.
Score one for Tennessee's offense in a TKO.
Better yet, score 51 for the Volunteers.
No. 13 Tennessee picked apart Georgia's highly touted defense all night on its way to a 51-33 victory over the 10th-ranked Bulldogs. The Vols (5-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) were one missed extra point away from matching the 1995 Florida team's record for the most points by a Sanford Stadium visitor.
"We knew we could make plays and move the ball on Georgia," Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge said. "After our defense put up a few stops, we knew we were going to win. I'm not surprised we put up 51 points. We practiced and prepared hard for this, and we knew what to do."
Ainge might not have surprised himself, but his offense's performance sure stunned most of the 92,746 fans that packed Sanford Stadium.
Georgia (5-1, 2-1) hadn't allowed anyone to score more than 13 points all season. The Vols had that many points by halftime, and they were just getting started.
Tennessee scored on six consecutive possessions – five touchdowns and a field goal - before the clock ran out on its final drive of the evening. And that doesn't include a blocked punt that produced yet another touchdown.
Ainge went 25-of-38 for 268 yards with a pair of touchdowns while being sacked just once. Arian Foster rushed for three more scores. The receiving tandem of Robert Meachem and Bret Smith combined to catch 14 passes for 192 yards.
"They did nothing different from what we'd seen on film," Georgia safety Tra Battle said. "It was just a matter of execution. They had their rhythm going. They were pretty much throwing and catching. When they needed to run, they made a run. They out-executed us tonight."
Tennessee's offense also got some help.
Georgia quarterback Joe Tereshinski threw two interceptions and lost a fumble on the Bulldogs' end of the field in the second half. Tennessee turned all three of those turnovers into touchdowns.
The blocked punt also added to the point total.
At the end of the night, however, Georgia defensive end Quentin Moses pointed the finger directly at himself and the rest of the defense.
"We knew what we had to do," Moses said. "They came out, executed and got the job done. We didn't."
HAPPY RETURNS: Although the blocked punt didn't help matters for Georgia, special teams actually helped the Bulldogs stay close for most of the night.
Georgia's Mikey Henderson returned a punt 86 yards – the sixth-longest in school history - to give the Bulldogs a 17-7 lead in the second quarter. Two periods later, Thomas Brown tied Lindsay Scott's 28-year-old school record with a 99-yard kickoff return.
This marked the first time the Bulldogs returned a punt and kickoff for touchdowns in the same game since a 1990 meeting with Kentucky. That game also ended in a Georgia loss.
FOSTER'S COMEBACK: Foster's three-touchdown performance marked his return to action after missing Tennessee's last two games with an ankle injury.
LaMarcus Coker actually started at tailback for the Vols, but Foster led the team in rushing with 63 yards on 15 carries. Coker finished with 57 yards on 12 carries.
STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND: A visit to neighboring Georgia might not seem like a long trip, but this marked the first time all season that Tennessee had left the Volunteer State.
Tennessee played four home games to open the season before traveling to Memphis last weekend.
COMING THROUGH ON THIRD DOWN: Tennessee went 7-of-12 on third down Saturday, but that impressive success rate shouldn't have come as a surprise.
The Vols had converted 59.7 percent of their third-down opportunities in their first five games of the season to rank second in the nation. Air Force had converted 63.8 percent of its third downs to lead all Division I-A teams.
Now their roles are reversed.
Coutu will miss the rest of the season after tearing his left hamstring while trying an onside kick in Thursday's practice. Coutu had gone 7-of-8 on field-goal attempts this year, with the only miss coming from 53 yards away.
That leaves the Bulldogs relying on Bailey, who responded Saturday by making both his field-goal attempts – from 22 and 34 yards away – and going 3-of-3 on extra points. Bailey actually had missed one extra point, but an offside penalty gave him a second chance.
ETC.: Dominique Wilkins was recognized after the first quarter for his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Wilkins remains the only player in Georgia basketball history to have his number (21) retired. … Smith's seven catches and 94 receiving yards represented career highs. … Antonio Wardlow's blocked punt in the third quarter marked the first time the Tennessee redshirt freshman defensive back had ever touched the ball in his college career. It also gave Tennessee its first touchdown off a blocked punt since 1995. For more coverage of Tennessee, visit VolQuest.com; for more on Florida, visit GatorBait.net.