Battered Vols Overpowered by Top Dogs

Photo by Riley Haltom (@rileyhaltom on X)

By Tucker Harlin

KNOXVILLE, Tenn- Despite appearances from both Dolly Parton and Peyton Manning, No.1 Georgia (11-0, 8-0) emerged with yet another dominant victory over No.18 Tennessee (7-4, 3-4) 38-10 in Neyland Stadium Saturday. The last four victories for the Bulldogs in Knoxville have been by differences of 41, 29, 24, and 28.

“There’s been a lot of good football played by the orange in the stadium for a while,” said Vols head coach Josh Heupel. “Tonight, that was certainly not it.”

Before the game started, Vols safety Wesley Walker and offensive tackles Gerald Mincey and John Campbell were scratched from the lineup due to injury. In the game, wide receiver Kaleb Webb and guard Javontez Spraggins left with injuries and did not return.

“Everybody has to take a rep, no matter who is in,” said Vols quarterback Joe Milton about the injuries. “Your starters, your backups, their backups, and their backups need to be able to understand the intent of the play.”

The Vols actually scored on their first play from scrimmage.

Running back Jaylen Wright ran untouched for 75 yards to the end zone, giving the Vols a seven-point advantage seconds into the game.

“I knew that was going to be the first call,” Wright said. “I just trust my linemen, and I try not to get caught.”

The Bulldogs’ first possession resulted in a score. A lengthy march down the field was cut off as a completion from Carson Beck to Brock Bowers was short of the line to gain. Peyton Woodring connected on a 42-yard field goal, cutting the Vols’ lead to four.

The Vols punted, and the Bulldogs went on to score their first touchdown of the afternoon. 

The Bulldogs fooled the Vols with a double pass. Beck threw the ball to Dillon Bell in the backfield, and Bell turned his head downfield to find a wide-open Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint in the end zone to give the Bulldogs the lead.

After three punts, the Bulldogs found the end zone again. A drive filled with chunk plays ended with Beck finding Bell for the 9-yard score, making it a 17-7 game.

The Vols punted again, and the Bulldogs scored again. Similar to their second touchdown drive, the Bulldogs made the most out of chunk passes from Beck to Bell. Beck connected with Bowers for a 3-yard touchdown to end the drive, giving the Bulldogs a 17-point edge.

The Vols were able to reach field goal range on the last possession of the half, and Charles Campbell knocked through the 37-yarder to make it 24-10 at half.

The Bulldogs scored on their second possession of the second half. The drive was highlighted by an end-around by Arian Smith and another long completion to Bell. It was capped by an 8-yard completion to Rosemy-Jacksaint in the end zone, extending the lead to 21.

The Vols punted again, and the Bulldogs scored their fifth touchdown on the ensuing drive. Kendall Milton found the edge to make it 38-10 early in the fourth quarter.

“This team has continued to get better throughout the course of the season,” Heupel said about the Bulldogs. “I don’t know how many first round draft picks they’ll have. They’re long and they’re physical, they have sound fundamentals and technique.”

The Vols conclude the 2023 regular season with a matchup against instate rival Vanderbilt next Saturday in Neyland Stadium. The game will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. ET and will air on SEC Network.