The second play, and the biggest, belonged to Mary Persons graduate Tra Battle. Fifty-six seconds after Tennessee had gained possession on a D.J. Shockley fumble, the 167-pound junior safety picked up Tennessee wide receiver Josh Briscoe and stripped him of the ball.
Battle also recovered the fumble, giving Georgia the ball at Tennessee's 45-yard line. The play was reviewed with instant replay but was upheld.
“I feel like I have to prove myself every game,” Battle said. “I knew what I had to do, regardless of what size I am.”
Johnson’s plays wasn’t reviewed, but it was probably more questionable. After the sophomore defensive end sacked Tennessee quarterback Rick Clausen and forced a fumble, it appeared a Tennessee lineman recovered the ball. However, Johnson pounced on him and ripped the ball away.
“Oh yeah, he had it at first,” Johnson said. “I guess he thought they had already given it to him. I just wrestled it from him. I thought they were going to give it to Tennessee.”
PROTECTING THE ‘T’: After the game, several Tennessee players quickly marched to midfield and stood at attention on their “T” logo. The intent was clear, to keep the Bulldogs from jumping on the logo as they have in the past.
Georgia running back Tyson Browning saw the display and said, “Y’all too late for that, y’all too late.”
ELY-KELSO MVP?: If the Bulldogs are handing out game balls, one surely has to go to punter Gordon Ely-Kelso. The junior from Athens pinned the Volunteers at the 8-yard line, 2-yard line and 1-yard line on three of his kicks.
On top of that, Ely-Kelso averaged 42.5 yards on six kicks.
“Gordon’s been doing that all year,” Coach Mark Richt said. “That’s just a fantastic job. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do.”
BULLDOG INJURIES: Starting middle linebacker Tony Taylor was taken to the locker room during the second quarter after straining a ligament in his left elbow and did not return to the game. Starting defensive tackle Gerald Anderson also missed the second half after suffering what could be another concussion.
The long-term prognosis for the players wasn’t immediately known after the game. Taylor, who was in a sling after the game, said team doctors hadn’t told him how long he might be out. Anderson missed most of Georgia’s last two weeks of practice due to his third concussion, and he may have simply aggravated the situation Saturday.
Immediately after Taylor’s injury, the Bulldogs put true freshman Marcus Washington at middle linebacker. However, after that series, defensive coordinator Willie Martinez moved starting weakside linebacker Jarvis Jackson to the middle and used Danny Verdun Wheeler on the weakside.
ALLEN INJURY: Tennessee senior cornerback Jason Allen suffered a frightening injury in the second quarter as well. Allen suffered a dislocated hip that almost certainly will cause him to miss the rest of the season. He was taken to a Knoxville hospital to examine a hip injury after he was run over by 250-pound tight end Leonard Pope.
The game was stopped for at least 10 minutes while Allen was evaluated on the Neyland Stadium field. He was taken off on a cart.
At one point while Allen was on the ground, Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley, a close friend of Allen’s, knelt in the Bulldog huddle and appeared to say a prayer. After Allen was placed on the cart, most of Georgia’s offensive players ran over to give him an encouraging word.
“I just told him, ‘Everything is going to be all right. Keep your head up,’” Shockley said.
Allen’s injury could be disastrous to his professional future. He strongly considered going pro after his junior season and came back to Tennessee only after being promised he would be moved from safety to cornerback.
IMPRESSIVE TEAMWORK: Bulldog fans can thank assistant coach Neil Callaway for the team’s 18-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. Georgia could not stop the clock after tight end Leonard Pope was stopped at the 1-yard line with 15 seconds left, but Callaway had the field goal team ready to go on the sideline.
They managed to get on the field and get the snap off with two seconds left, allowing Brandon Coutu to tack on an easy three points to the Bulldog lead.
The Bulldogs call the drill “Mayday” when they work on it in practice.
“Every single week we practice Mayday,” Richt said. “We’ve practiced it for five years and never done it until tonight.”
HALFTIME SHOW: Country music star Kenny Rogers, a former Athens resident, was recognized at halftime. Rogers performed in front of Tennessee marching band, which stood in formation spelling out “Kenny.” First, Rogers sang “Lucille” and then he sang “The Gambler” while clips from the movie by the same name played on Volunteers’ scoreboard video screen.
VOL CALLS: Georgia came into the game as the second-most penalized team in the SEC, but Tennessee looked like it was trying to overtake the Bulldogs on Saturday. The Vols were flagged 12 times for 78 yards, and many of them came at critical times.
Left tackle Arron Sears was called for two start false starts in the third quarter to turn a second-and-six in Georgia territory to a second-and-16 in Tennessee territory. Later on that drive, a first down run by Gerald Riggs’ to the Bulldog 19-yard line was negated by a 15-yard chop block penalty against Rob Smith.
“In the SEC, you’re not going to win too many games beating yourself,” Tennessee linebacker Kevin Simon said. “Georgia beat us, but we helped them out a lot.”
GOING BACKWARD: Starting wide receiver Sean Bailey came into the game losing ground in the pass-catching rotation, and he didn’t do himself any favors against Tennessee. Twice in the second quarter, Bailey missed opportunities to give the Bulldogs’ big plays.
First, he barely missed making a great diving catch inside the 20-yard line. On Georgia’s subsequent possession, he dropped a pass that hit him right in the chest. A catch would have given Georgia possession deep in Tennessee territory.
He finally made his first catch since the first game of the season with a 13-yard reception for a first down on the Bulldogs’ first offensive drive of the second half.
UNIFIED FRONT: Instead of normal sprint onto the field, the bulk of Georgia’s team entered Neyland Stadium for the start of the game by walking arm-in-arm in groups of four and five. They did the same thing coming out of the locker room for the second half.
DeMario Minter suggested doing it, Richt said.
“The guys are believing in team, and I’m proud of them,” Richt said.
THIS AND THAT: Thomas Flowers’ punt return for a touchdown was the first by a Tennessee opponent since Georgia’s Damien Gary returned one 72 yards for a score in the Bulldogs’ 2001 win in Neyland Stadium. ... Linebacker Jarvis Jackson returned to the starting lineup and played with a small cast protecting his injured right thumb. ... Mohamed Massaquoi got the first rush of his career on the second play of the game, taking a reverse from Thomas Brown 23 yards to Georgia’s 42-yard line. ... Ray Gant started in place of Gerald Anderson at defensive tackle, but Anderson came in on the Vols’ second offensive play.