Saturday's 34-31 overtime win against Tennessee kept Georgia's championship hopes alive, but it might have come at an enormous cost. That's what we'll focus on first in this week's “What we learned.”
Injuries might be Georgia's undoing: The Bulldogs survived on Saturday ... barely ... but what happened at Neyland Stadium might have dealt a devastating blow to Georgia's championship chances. All-SEC tailback Todd Gurley didn't play and should be back before long, but fellow running back Keith Marshall might not be that lucky. Marshall and receivers Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley all suffered what appeared to be serious knee injuries. With wideout Malcolm Mitchell already out for the season with a knee injury, the Bulldogs could be without many of their top offensive playmakers for an extended period of time. Coach Mark Richt will likely reveal the extent of the damage -- or as he called it after Saturday's win, “carnage” -- on his Sunday evening teleconference.
Special teams/defensive issues remain: A feeling of impending doom no doubt swept over Georgia's fan base when the numerous injuries caused the Bulldogs' potent offense to start sputtering. That's because the Bulldogs were forced to lean more heavily on their sloppy defensive and special teams units. Tennessee blocked a punt for a touchdown, got a key penalty against Blake Sailors on an impending punt after a third-down stop -- then turned a fourth-and-short run into a 43-yard gain by Rajion Neal -- and built plenty of late momentum against Georgia's defense. The Vols scored 28 points and rolled up 277 yards after halftime and came within inches of scoring a touchdown in overtime, but Alton Howard's dive toward the pylon saw him fumble the ball through the end zone for a touchback just before breaking the goal line.
Freshmen can run: Little-used tailbacks J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas had to take over with injuries sidelining stars Marshall and Gurley. But the two freshmen delivered, with Green (17 carries, 132 yards) pacing Georgia's running game throughout the afternoon. Douglas scored Georgia's first touchdown of the fourth quarter and also made a key 32-yard catch and run to Tennessee's 13-yard line, setting up Aaron Murray's game-tying touchdown pass to Rantavious Wooten with 5 seconds remaining. It was a terrible position for the freshmen to be put in on Saturday, but Georgia had to depend on them and they responded with a number of key plays that made a difference in the outcome.