When opportunity knocks, the door has to be answered, but Saturday night at Sanford Stadium, the Vols left their chances stranded out in the chilly Athens air.
We had lots of opportunities tonight and we just didn't take advantage of them, said Vol linebacker Anthony Sessions.
Keeping Tennessee from cashing in was an experienced Georgia defense that limited the Vol offense to just 248 yards, Tennessee's lowest output of the season.
We didn't play very good up front, Volunteer head coach Philip Fulmer said. But we also played a very physical, senior-laden Georgia front.
That experience is what allowed the Bulldog defense to make the big plays when the Vols threatened. Twice Georgia denied the Vols a touchdown in the red zone and allowed only a field goal after the Vols took over on the Bulldog 8-yard line following a Quincy Carter fumble.
Fulmer says that's just the way the Vols have played thus far.
The whole thing's frustrating, Fulmer said. We were down in the orange zone/red zone three, four, five times and came away with three points. That's us.
Ultimately, it was the Vols' inability to convert key fourth downs that was the difference.
In the second quarter from the Georgia 8 and again in the fourth from the Bulldog 5, tailback Travis Henry was stuffed at the line, a play the Vols have had success with earlier in the season.
I'll have to look at the tape, Fulmer said. But we've been pretty good on third-and-short and fourth-and-short this year.
UT quarterback A.J. Suggs said Henry's leadership has earned him the right to carry the ball in those situations.
Travis Henry is a senior and he's carried this team for a long time, Suggs said. I think you give him the ball and let him make a play. I think he's earned that right.
Sessions said the Vols just plain came up short.
The defense came out just wanting to play hard, Sessions said. I feel like everybody on defense and the whole team played their hearts out like we do every week. We just came up with the short end of the stick.
Fulmer took Sessions' logic a step further, saying the Vols need to learn how to make the big plays.
Our kids fought hard, Fulmer said. But we're not making many plays. We're not really making anything happen as an offense or defense. We're playing hard, and we've got a good attitude and we're preparing hard, but we've got to make more things happen on both sides of the ball.
The Vol defense made a few more of those plays this week than last week at LSU, holding Georgia to 275 yards, but it was the offense that struggled against the Dawgs.
Linebacker Eric Westmoreland said regardless of which part of the Volunteer attack has trouble, wins and losses remain a team effort.
It's not really frustrating because the defense struggled, Westmoreland said of the offense's performance. You can't blame the offense, you can't blame anybody. It's a team as a whole. When we get them stopped the offense has to score, and then the offense scores and we have to get them stopped. We work as one.
Sessions said the Volunteer defense played well enough to win, but the blame can't be cast on anyone's head.
We can't point fingers at anybody. We've got to step up and make the plays and we just didn't do that tonight, he said.
But it wasn't just the offense that didn't make those plays.
With 2:19 left in the third, the Bulldogs took over on their own 1-yard line thanks to a 41-yard punt off the leg of David Leaverton. On a crucial third-and-1 from their own 9, Bulldog running back Musa Smith ran a sweep for seven yards, giving Georgia the first of two key conversions in their school record 99-yard scoring drive.
Sessions thought the Vols had them right where they wanted them.
I thought we were going to get a safety down there and they converted a third down and really broke our backs, Sessions said. It's the same things over and over again.
Smith's run wasn't exactly the straw that broke the camel's back, but rather another chapter in a season that hasn't seen much in the way of clutch plays from the Vols.
We've had a lot of opportunities and we're just not able to convert, Suggs said. That's been the story of our season.
Defense sets pace for UGA victory
Published: Mon Oct 09, 2000 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 03:16 p.m.