Bulldogs capitalize on turnover chances

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ATHENS, Ga. --- When Derek Owens and Blake Sailors saw the fumbles, one thing dominated their thoughts: just fall on it.

Georgia's defense shut down Tennessee's offense, allowing just 12 first downs and holding the Vols to 0.3 yards per carry. 
  DAVID MANNING/MORRIS NEWS SERVICE
DAVID MANNING/MORRIS NEWS SERVICE
Georgia's defense shut down Tennessee's offense, allowing just 12 first downs and holding the Vols to 0.3 yards per carry.

Tennessee's Eric Gordon fumbled twice on returns, the first forced by Jordan Love before Owens recovered. The second came when a fair catch attempt bounced right off Gordon and allowed Sailors to recover.

"Nobody blocked me, so I took off," Sailors said. "I wasn't thinking about running with the ball or anything. I just wrapped my body around it so nobody could get that ball. They actually had to pick me off the ground to get me up."

The recovered fumbles made up two of the three Tennessee turnovers in the first half, which marked the first time the Bulldogs benefitted from three turnovers against a Southeastern Conference foe since they recorded three interceptions against Louisiana State in 2008.

Bacarri Rambo made his interception after teammate Vance Cuff tipped the ball. Rambo said he wouldn't have made the catch without Cuff's help and actually thought he was out of bounds when he made the grab.

Though Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said the fumbles were a combination of fortunate bounces and players being at the right place at the perfect time, the fact that people were there to recover made the difference. That concept was also part of the message honorary captain Boss Bailey -- a former Bulldog -- had for this year's team. Richt called Bailey's speech the best out of all the honorary captains.

"But I will say that's one of the things Boss Bailey said, that if we got 11 hats to the ball, when the ball does come out, then maybe we'll be closer than they are," Richt said.

Those three turnovers led to 17 points as the Bulldogs built 27-7 halftime advantage.

With the defense forcing turnovers and the offense taking advantage, Richt said that made the Volunteers changed their game plan. Because of the deficit, Tennessee threw the ball 15 more times in the second half than the first half as the running game became an afterthought.

The Volunteers scored on their first drive of the third quarter, but squandered another chance in the fourth when Brandon Boykin broke up a pass on fourth down from the Georgia 3.

The front seven did its part as well.

Justin Houston notched two of the Bulldogs' four sacks as Georgia held Tennessee to 12 first downs and 0.3 yards per rush.

With the special teams and defense forcing turnovers and short possessions, the Bulldogs had four drives begin in Tennessee territory. Those drives combined for 20 points.

"Every one ran to the ball, every one played physical and they played together -- like a team," Owens said.

"They showed a lot of love and did their job."


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