There was very little doubt about the game's outcome Saturday afternoon in Athens, Ga.
Unlike last week, Tennessee players and fans never thought the Vols had defeated Georgia in front of a Sanford Stadium crowd of 92,476, as the Bulldogs (2-4, 1-2 SEC) jumped out to a 17-0 first quarter lead and cruised to a 41-14 victory over the Volunteers (2-4, 0-3 SEC).
"We ran into a motivated, good football team," first-year UT coach Derek Dooley said, "and early in the game, I don't care who you play, when you spit the ball out four times in your territory in the first half, we can't play anybody and expect to hang in there, especially a team that played the way Georgia played.
"So give them a lot of credit for how they played. I thought we got affected in the game, being on the road. We didn't keep our composure very well when things went wrong, and the result was we got ran out of the stadium."
The Vols turned the ball over three times in the first half and gave the Dawgs a short field to work with for much of the afternoon. Vols quarterback Matt Simms was intercepted during the team's second drive of the game, and cornerback Eric Gordon fumbled a kickoff and a punt in the first half to add to Georgia's momentum and keep the Vols from ever taking a lively crowd out of the game.
"They out-executed us today," Simms said. "These were two teams that obviously wanted to win. Perhaps we were too focused on winning and lost sight of what it takes to win."
Simms finished 9-of-13 for 179 with a touchdown and an interception before being replaced by freshman Tyler Bray in the fourth quarter. Simms connected with freshman receiver Justin Hunter early in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 17-7.
For the game, Hunter had four receptions for 110 yards and one touchdown. Hunter saw an increased role in Saturday's game for the Vols, especially in three wide receiver sets.
"(The game) kind of fell away from us in the beginning," Hunter said. "It's real sad how we played. We just have to regroup. I think my confidence has been building up higher and higher every week with me getting a lot more touches and a lot more (playing) time."
Georgia led 27-7 at the half and took the opening possession of the third quarter 64 yards in seven plays for a touchdown, when Dawgs quarterback Aaron Murray scrambled five yards for his second rushing touchdown of the game.
Murray, a redshirt freshman with seemingly plenty of time to throw from the pocket all day, finished 17-of-25 for 266 yards and two touchdowns, adding 41 yards on the ground with two rushing touchdowns.
Murray's favorite target was star receiver A.J. Green. The junior hauled in six receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown, despite being double-teamed on many plays.
Senior middle linebacker Nick Reveiz believed the game was a big test for the Vols, and the outcome was not what he or the rest of the players and coaches were hoping for heading into the team's bye week.
"I felt like this was a big turning point for our team, and we didn't pass the test today," Reveiz said. "Again, we have another great opponent coming in with Alabama two weeks from now, so we just have to move on."
Even with depth and talent being an obvious issue for the Vols, Dooley refused to blame his roster's shortcomings for the way the Vols played Saturday.
"I'm not sure that's growing pains," Dooley said. "We just aren't very good ... We just aren't very good right now, and therefore, if we don't play a clean game, meaning no turnovers, no dumb penalties (and) meaning making them earn it, that's what happened. That's what happened the second half (against) Oregon, not playing a clean game."
For the Vols, the team will have two weeks to regroup and find a way to play a clean game against Alabama, when Dooley's former mentor, Nick Saban, leads the Crimson Tide into Neyland Stadium on Oct. 23.