UGA breaks losing streak, routs Vols

ATHENS -- Georgia's football team took out a month's worth of frustration and failure on Tennessee here Saturday.

The Bulldogs broke a four-game losing streak, the program's longest in 20 years, by dominating the Volunteers from start to finish and winning 41-14 in Sanford Stadium.

The Dogs played as if they could not bear the thought of another defeat.

"We ran into a motivated team today," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said afterward. "They were hungry and ready to play. This is what we expected Georgia to be like at the beginning of the season."

This was not the Georgia of the past month. The team that had fumbled away its chances in three games committed no turnovers in this one. The team that had allowed the opponent to score a touchdown on its opening possession in four consecutive games held Tennessee scoreless through the first quarter, which was long enough to build a 17-0 lead.

And the quarterback who had played pretty well throughout the losing streak played his best game yet. Aaron Murray completed 17 of 25 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores, including a 35-yard scramble for Georgia's first touchdown.

After winning for the first time since the Sept. 4 season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, the Bulldogs (2-4, 1-3 SEC) cited two potential triggers for the breakthrough.

Several players said the team was toughened by a week of more physical practices, starting with coach Mark Richt's decision, for the first time in a decade, to have his squad scrimmage in full pads on a Monday following a game. "We got our minds right on Monday," linebacker Akeem Dent said.

Others cited a fiery speech to the players on Friday by former Georgia linebacker Boss Bailey, who was the honorary captain Saturday.

"He pretty much called them out," Richt said, "but he did it in a way that was very compassionate. It was very obvious that he loves Georgia, obvious that he loves those guys, but he felt like he needed to tell them that they weren't playing ball the way ball should be played here at Georgia.

"That [was] what they needed to hear. ... We're really thankful Boss came and did what he did for us."

Tennessee (2-4, 0-3 SEC) certainly contributed to Georgia's cause, too, with its bumbling play. In Dooley's first appearance as a head coach in the stadium where his father coached the Bulldogs for a quarter-century, the Volunteers committed three first-half turnovers, which the Bulldogs turned into 17 points en route to a 27-7 halftime lead.

A Tennessee pass that was tipped by Georgia's Vance Cuff and intercepted by teammate Bacarri Rambo midway through the first quarter led to a Blair Walsh field goal. Then a Tennessee fumble on the ensuing kickoff, forced by Jordan Love and recovered by Derek Owens, led to a Georgia touchdown. And a bit later, a Tennessee fumble on a second-quarter punt, recovered by Georgia's Blake Sailors, led to another touchdown and a 24-7 lead.

By the end of the afternoon, Georgia (2-4, 1-3 SEC) had scored almost as many points as in their three previous SEC games combined (42).

"We knew we were capable of this kind of game all season long, but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot," Murray said. "We can hold a team to 14 points and put up big numbers."

Not coincidentally, this was the first SEC game in which Green had played this season. He caught six passes for 96 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown. In the two games he has played since returning from suspension -- last week's nonconference loss at Colorado was the first -- he has caught 13 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns.

Saturday's was a therapeutic victory for the Bulldogs -- and the Sanford Stadium crowd -- after the distress of the losing streak.

"I'm very proud of our team," Richt said. "They played extremely hard from the very first kickoff to the very end. ... It's a tribute to them. It's a tribute to our coaches and to everybody who supports us, too. ... I'm thankful for it, and hopefully we can build from it."