No. 11 Volunteers head to Georgia for first road game
After winning three home games and one at a neutral site in nearby Bristol, the No. 11 Tennessee Volunteers go on the road for the first time this season to start off October.
The Volunteers visit Georgia to take on the No. 25 Bulldogs at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday (ESPN) at Sanford Stadium in Athens.
Tennessee will be looking to carry over the momentum gained from its second-half comeback in a 38-28 win over Florida last week while the Bulldogs are hoping to get the pieces back together from the 45-14 thrashing they took from Ole Miss.
"The silver lining is you get another opportunity to play a good team this week," Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said. "The opportunity that we have looking forward is what we're fired up about.
"I mean, the best thing we can do is look forward and continue to develop our players to get better. My end goal is for each guy to play his best game this game. That's what we want."
Coming off a 28-27 win at Missouri that ran their record to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the SEC, the Bulldogs never got their game going at Ole Miss until the issue was long decided. The Rebels led 31-0 at the halftime break and stretched their lead to 45-0 before the 'Dogs got a touchdown late in the third quarter and another in the fourth.
There was little to take out of that, but Smart did the best he could.
"It was important to them to get the backs in there, and the backs ran hard," Smart said. "I think that part was really what I wanted to see out of them, was no quit, fight your tail off, and keep battling.
"As far as momentum, I wouldn't say it created any momentum."
Quarterback Jacob Eason, who engineered the comeback against Missouri, played more like the freshman he is at Ole Miss. He threw for 303 yards and three scores, but was completed only 16 of 36 attempts.
Of concern now is the condition of tailback Nick Chubb's ankle. He had only 57 yards on 12 carries against the Rebels.
"He's going to continue to rehab really hard," Smart said. "We're obviously hopeful he'll be able to do something, but we won't know more until later in the week. But it is an ankle injury."
For a while, it seemed as if Tennessee was bound for the same kind of day as the Bulldogs when the Volunteers fell behind Florida 21-3 at the half. But Tennessee came roaring out of the locker room in the third quarter, scoring 28 points in a little more than four minutes, and ran off 35 consecutive points before the Gators managed a late score to cut the final margin to 10 points.
The comeback not only snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Gators but confirmed the Volunteers as a the favorite in the SEC East, a distinction they can solidify with a win over the Bulldogs.
"I was very proud of the way our kids competed," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "I thought they competed even in the first half. I thought we competed for 60 minutes. We had some individuals really step up and play winning football for us."
Since going 26-of-48 passing for 283 yards and four touchdowns in wins over Appalachian State at home and Virginia Tech in Bristol, quarterback Joshua Dobbs has gone 35 for 59 for 522 yards and six scores in wins over Ohio and Florida. He passed for three touchdowns and ran for two in last year's 38-31 win over the Bulldogs.
After hosting the Volunteers, the Bulldogs go to South Carolina and get Vanderbilt at home before getting an open date before their Oct. 29 game against Florida.
Tennessee the unenviable task of going to Texas A&M and hosting Alabama the next two weeks, which puts even more emphasis on this week's encounter.
"As we know, it's a week-to-week season," Jones said. "The more you win, the more that is at stake."