ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Stetson Bennett threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, and No. 3 Georgia bounced back from Tennessee’s goal-line stand on the final play of the first half, dominating the final 30 minutes to beat the 14th-ranked Volunteers 44-21 Saturday.
The Bulldogs (3-0) knocked off a ranked Southeastern Conference team for the second week in a row, shaking off a a 21-17 deficit to completely wipe out the Volunteers over the final two quarters.
Showing it’s still not ready to compete with the league’s top programs, Tennessee (2-1) turned it over three times and managed just 71 yards total offense in the second half.
Fittingly, Justin Guarantano was sacked on the final play of the game.
Bennett ran for a 10-yard touchdown in the first half, hooked up with Kearis Jackson on a 21-yard scoring pass in the final minute of the third quarter, and sealed the victory with a 1-yard TD flip to 305-pound nose tackle Jalen Carter, who was supposedly in the game as an extra blocker.
For good measure, Monty Rice stripped the ball away from Guarantano, scooped up the loose ball and ran 20 yards for a fitting epitaph to Georgia’s defensive dominance as darkness fell over Athens.
Bennett, the former walk-on making his second straight start, completed 16 of 27 for 238 yards. Jackson hauled in four passes for 91 yards. Zamir White added a 1-yard scoring run.
Tennessee seemed to have all the momentum at the end of the first half. The Bulldogs drove inside the Vols 1 and had two shots to ram it into the end zone, inserting Carter to provide another massive blocker at fullback.
But Tennessee stopped White short of the goal line on two straight runs, charging off the field in celebration after the second stop ended the half.
All those good feelings evaporated when Tennessee turned it over on its first two possessions of the second half.
Guarantano was sacked by Azeez Ojulari and coughed up the ball, with Ojulari also making the recovery. Then, under heavy pressure, the Tennessee quarterback wobbled one up that was intercepted by Eric Stokes. Tennessee’s defense held Georgia to a pair of field goals after those miscues, but the Tennessee offense just couldn’t get anything going.
Tennessee led after a wild first half that included plenty of mistakes by both teams. Guarantano hooked up with Josh Palmer on two touchdown passes.
The Bulldogs started the parade of errors on the second snap of the game, which soared over Bennett’s head while he was lined up in the shotgun. Bennett couldn’t corral the ball at the 1, and Tennessee’s Kivon Bennett fell on it end zone for a touchdown.
Tennessee: An eight-game winning streak was snapped, and coach Jeremy Pruitt was denied a much-needed victory over one of the conference’s top programs. The Vols’ rebuilding job still has a ways to go, at least when it comes to competing for an SEC East title. That second-half debacle is going to sting a while in Knoxville.
Georgia: Bennett had some shaky moments, but certainly did enough to show that he deserves to hang on to the starting job. The defense is truly special, so the Bulldogs should be able to compete with most teams as long as the running game can produce some yardage and Bennett doesn’t make any major mistakes.
Tennessee: Return home to face Kentucky next Saturday.
Georgia: Wrap up a brutal stretch against three ranked SEC teams when they travel to Tuscaloosa for what could be one of the games of the year against No. 2 Alabama.