Athens — These short takes are presented as a companion to the Georgia-Tennessee game column, which can be found here. Georgia won 35-32, FYI.
1. Sometimes it’s unclear whether the Bulldogs are trying to win because of Todd Gurley or to prove they can win without him. Example: Saturday’s third quarter. It opened with five consecutive Georgia pass plays, one of which became a Hutson Mason scramble. The first series yielded an interception, the second a three-and-out. Gurley, who would finish with 208 yards rushing, didn’t touch the ball. Indeed, he carried only four times for nine yards in a quarter that saw neither side score. Come the final moments of the fourth quarter, coach Mark Richt conceded: “We had to have Gurley with the ball in his hands there.” Six carries generated the game-clinching first downs. Had the Bulldogs saved him for the end, or had they forgotten about him earlier?
2. The passing game got a failing grade. With the Tennessee defense aligned to stop Gurley (also a fail), the way was clear for Hutson Mason to find open receivers off play-action. Didn’t happen. Mason completed 16 of 25 passes for 147 yards and threw two bad interceptions. “We need to get a little more separation,” said Richt, speaking of his receivers, and then he noted that injured wideouts Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell would return to practice Monday. Richt also said this: “We’re definitely not clicking in throwing the ball, but we’re not going to abort running the ball just to prove we can sling it around.”
3. Tennessee will beat somebody good soon. Richt admitted his team was lucky it didn’t face the young Vols later in the season, and there’s a chance Tennessee will be a whole different team by November. Take away two lost fumbles — both on botched handoffs, the second of which became Georgia’s clinching touchdown — and the three second-half series missed by quarterback Justin Worley, who’d gotten hit on the elbow, and this could have been Butch Jones’ breakthrough. As it was, the Tennessee coach noted: “Of our 70 players, only 13 played in this game two years ago.”