KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Georgia senior running back James Cook tied a career high with 104 yards rushing and three touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs to a 41-17 win against Tennessee in front of 100,074 fans and a CBS national television audience Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium.
The top-ranked Bulldogs improve to 10-0 overall for the first time since 1982 and 8-0 against Southeastern Conference opponents for the first time in program history. The Volunteers falls to 5-5 this season.
Tennessee led 10-7 at the end of the first quarter, but Georgia scored 34 unanswered points to take control of the game. The Bulldogs outgained the Volunteers 487-387 overall and outrushed the home team, 274-55.
“This is a tough place to play, tough atmosphere to play in, but we had excellent focus and detail from our guys,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “They just continue to be resilient and fight through adversity. This is a tough environment. Tennessee starts fast. We didn’t stop them early, but we stopped more later in the game.”
The two teams traded scores on their opening possessions. Following a Hendon Hooker 9-yard touchdown pass to Velus Jones, Jr., Georgia quickly answered with Cook’s 39-yard scamper.
After a pair of three-and-outs, Tennessee drove 76 yards on a 13-play drive, capped off by Chase McGrath’s 24-yard field goal, to take a 10-7 lead after one quarter.
From there, Georgia scored 17 unanswered points in the first half. A field goal from Jack Podlesny, a 9-yard TD rush by Stetson Bennett and a 90-yard drive capped off by Cook’s 23-yard touchdown reception put the Bulldogs up 24-10 at the break.
The Bulldogs outgained the Vols 191-25 in total yards — including a 69-4 advantage on the ground— in the second period, while Cook totaled 113 total yards (rushing and receiving) with two touchdowns to lead Georgia’s offense. Senior defensive back Derion Kendrick recorded his second interception of the season, while junior linebacker Nakobe Dean totaled seven tackles to pace the Georgia defense in the first 30 minutes.
“I thought Dan Lanning did a great job,” Smart added. “Our defensive staff really prepared our guys for it. It is hard to prepare for that when it was hitting them fast. They run a lot of screens and things outside and spread the ball around … They threw the ball a lot more than we thought, but our guys bounced back.”
To begin the third, Georgia’s defense stopped Tennessee’s fourth-down attempt deep in Bulldog territory. Georgia then went on a 13-play, 74-yard drive that resulted in a Podlesny field goal to stretch the lead to 27-10.
Cook scored his third touchdown of the day to open the fourth quarter — this time from five yards out to give Georgia the 34-10 lead.
The Bulldog defense kept the Tennessee offense from converting a pair of fourth-downs attempts and recovered a Hooker fumble to keep the Volunteers out of the end zone. Georgia junior running back Kenny McIntosh punched it in from five yards in and Tennessee’s Cedric Tillman’s caught a 12-yard TD reception to put the final score at 41-17.
Next week, Georgia returns home to host Charleston Southern at noon ET on Saturday.