Georgia needed an Aaron Murray TD pass with 5 seconds remaining to force overtime to find a way to leave Neyland Stadium with a 34-31 win over Tennessee on Saturday.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones did everything he could to give his team a chance, including dialing up three fourth-down conversions. Behind a fantastic game from RB Rajion Neal (148 yards, 2 TDs) and a mistake-free effort from QB Justin Worley, the Volunteers nearly scored a huge victory.
Neal capped his day with a 7-yard TD run to put Tennessee up 31-24 with 1:54 to play.
However, Murray saved the day in the closing seconds with a huge 2-minute drill drive. With Georgia needing a touchdown to keep its national championship hopes alive, the senior threw for 58 yards, including a tying 2-yard TD pass to WR Rantavious Wooten.
The Volunteers still had a chance for the upset once in overtime. They appeared to be in position to take a touchdown-lead in the extra period, too.
RB Alton Howard took a second-down handoff from the 7 and turned the corner on his way to the end-zone. He tried to stretch the ball out to get it over the goal-line for the go-ahead score, but lost the handle in the process. His fumble went through the side of the end-zone for a costly touchback.
Georgia did nothing on its possession, but K Marshall Morgan hammered home a 42-yard field goal to allow the Bulldogs to survive a road scare.
Don’t tell Georgia that the road got easier after it topped LSU last week. RBs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are now both hurt with their statuses for next week’s game against Missouri in question.
Though the Bulldogs have navigated a tough slate early on, they need to start playing impressively in games such as Saturday’s. Every team gets one of these games – look at Oklahoma against TCU this week or UCLA at Utah. But they don’t get many.
Halfway through the season, it looks like the odds of no team going undefeated look bleak. Georgia needs not only to win, it needs to score style points where possible.
The Bulldogs failed to do so on Saturday, but they left with the win. That at least means their slim national championship hopes live on for a week.
Georgia would be well-advised to bring forth a better effort next week against Missouri.