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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / Week 6

Tennessee Takes the Bite Out of Georgia's Bark

College football: No. 4 Volunteers score on consecutive possessions in third quarter on way to 22-3 victory.

October 11, 1998|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATHENS, Ga. — The sun was out, the air was crisp, the stadium was packed, the stakes were high and the hedges were trimmed.

Yet, the most anticipated Georgia home game in 15 years went from Uga to ugly in a hurry.

So what happened?

"Rocky Top" happened, over and over and over.

Safe to say there have been better days in Georgia.

As the Braves were losing out west, the University of Georgia's ballyhooed return to national prominence was severely undercut Saturday when Tennessee left Sanford Stadium with a 22-3 victory before a crowd of 86,117.

It wasn't supposed to end like this.

As the Tennessee band played on late in the game, Uga V, Georgia's reigning bulldog mascot, barked his disapproval on the sideline.

Like the real Bulldogs, he was all bark, no bite.

Although No. 4 Tennessee had No. 7 Georgia outranked in the polls, the Bulldogs were favored to end the Volunteers' seven-game winning streak in the series.

With Tennessee star tailback Jamal Lewis out for the season because of a knee injury, Georgia's two-way man Champ Bailey was supposed to be christened as a late-entry Heisman Trophy candidate.

But after a close half, Tennessee scored touchdowns on consecutive possessions in the third quarter and demoralized the Georgia offense with waves of defensive pressure, led by linebacker Al Wilson.

Georgia freshman quarterback Quincy Carter spent more time backing up than moving forward as he fought to stay upright for next week's game.

"They put a lot of pressure on us and we couldn't pick up the blitzes," Carter said. "I knew they were going to be coming, but we didn't handle it. We couldn't figure out what they were doing."

Wilson, who missed the previous week's game against Auburn because of a shoulder injury, did not miss Saturday's.

"If I could move any way possible, I was going to be in there," Wilson said.

He and his teammates hit, hunted and otherwise haunted Carter into a 14-for-37, two-interception performance.

"We knew he hadn't seen pressure like that," Wilson said. "If he makes five touchdowns off the pressure, you take your hat off to him."

The Volunteers kept their hats on.

Tennessee held the Bulldogs to a field goal and 254 total yards--only 57 on the ground.

No Lewis?

No problem.

To fill the void, Tennessee trotted out its two sophomore Travises, Stephens and Henry, who combined for 160 yards in 36 carries.

Stephens got the start and finished with 107 yards while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

Stephens said he was shocked when he heard Monday that Lewis, who tore right knee ligaments in the 17-9 victory against Auburn, was lost for the season. Stephens said he did not know he was starting until Friday.

"I just wanted to play hard, focus on the plays, remember what I had to do and hopefully not mess up," he said.

Tennessee dominated the game but took only a 9-3 lead into halftime after squandering good field position and having to settle for Jeff Hall field goals of 27, 39 and 43 yards.

But the second half was Tennessee's from the first whistle, when Georgia booted the kickoff out of bounds to give the Volunteers the ball on their 35.

From there, Tennessee drove 65 yards in seven plays for a touchdown, a third down, three-yard scoring pass from quarterback Tee Martin to Cedrick Wilson. The key play on the drive was Martin's 30-yard scramble on first and 10 at the Georgia 33.

Martin was stopped at the goal line on the two-point conversion, but that was about all that went wrong for the Volunteers.

On Georgia's first possession of the half, Carter tried to cut into the 15-3 deficit with one heave, but his deep pass intended for Thad Parker was intercepted by cornerback Dwayne Goodrich.

Tennessee took over at its 41, and drove 59 yards in nine plays for its second touchdown, a three-yard pass from Martin to Peerless Price with 6:06 left in the third quarter.

Georgia made a last-gasp response, driving from its 13 to the Tennessee 40 late in the third quarter, but Bailey's end-around pass attempt on fourth and 10 was intercepted by Deon Grant.

Tennessee largely muted Bailey's Heisman campaign. Although he played a solid game at cornerback, Bailey was held to three catches for 21 yards.

"They just outplayed us in every way," Bailey said.

Especially on defense. The Volunteers returned only four starters from the unit that gave up 534 yards to Nebraska in a 42-17 Orange Bowl rout.

What gives?

"Nebraska was a great football team," Wilson said. "They ran on everybody. They ran on us."

Wilson said Lewis' injury motivated the defense.

"We said at the half, 'If they do not score, they don't win,' " Wilson said. "The focus was don't let them score and play like wild men."

Tennessee improved to 5-0 with the win as Georgia fell to 4-1.

The Volunteers will move up in the polls thanks to No. 2 Nebraska's loss, but there's no telling how far Georgia will fall.

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