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Georgia’s emotions, the atmosphere too much for Tennessee to handle in a 27-13 loss

Georgia’s emotions, the atmosphere too much for Tennessee to handle in a 27-13 loss

ATHENS — A national crowd is watching, the SEC Championship stakes are on the line and the capacity Georgia football crowd provided an overwhelming moment for Tennessee on Saturday.

Coach Josh Heupel hinted at that in his postgame comments following the Bulldogs’ 27-13 victory over the Vols in a historic battle of top-seeded teams at Sanford Stadium.

“There are things we’ll learn from tonight,” Heupel said after the game, per 247Sports transcript. “As a program, you have to understand what you’re getting into and the atmosphere and the energy you’re going to get from everybody — not just for their program, but from their fans.

“The emotional part of the football game, (we) had to be able to settle into it at the beginning of the game. We didn’t do it in a positive way.”

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Tennessee jumped out to a 3-0 lead with a 16-yard run that set up a 47-yard field goal, but it seemed to bring even more urgency — and more noise — to Vince Dooley’s field six days after the legendary Georgia legend passed away.

Georgia responded to a rare home deficit by scoring three straight touchdowns, taking a 21-3 lead and taking command of the game.

Heupel said going into the game he felt Tennessee could handle the hostile environment in Georgia, but admitted after the game that wasn’t the case.

“Offensively early in the football game, we’re hurt by false starts (and) communication issues,” Heupel said.

“Overall, I didn’t think we handled the noise very well. Those are false starts. It’s synchronized, communication in advance.”

Tennessee had six false starts, an illegal procedure, and Heisman Trophy candidate Hendon Hooker was sacked six times.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart said the crowd noise absolutely affected the game because the Vols’ offensive line couldn’t rebound.

“You can’t take that point — 2 seconds down,” Smart said. “It changes the rush.”

The crowd impact was reminiscent of Georgia’s 23-17 win over Notre Dame in a battle of top 10 teams in 2019, when the Irish had six false starts and three timeouts to avoid a delay due to crowd noise.

Tennessee outscored UGA 7-3 in the second half, and the Bulldogs were more conservative in the final 30 minutes with a three-goal lead and the rain pouring down.

Heupel said he was honest with his team after the game.

“Be honest about what happened tonight … and the energy and the kind of environment and the competitive arena that you’re in,” Heupel said. “As a program, on the road, we have to grow and be able to handle it in a much better way than we did tonight.

“It’s not that our guys didn’t prepare well, it’s just that we were in ourselves during the early part of the game, especially to change the way the game is played and learn from it.”





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