ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Todd Gurley ran for a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns, including a 51-yarder in the fourth quarter, as No. 12 Georgia bounced back from an early 10-0 deficit and held off gritty Tennessee 35-32 on Saturday.
The lackluster Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) struggled with the Volunteers for the second year in a row. Tennessee wouldn’t quit, even after Jalen Hurd fumbled a handoff and Josh Dawson fell on it in the end zone for a Georgia touchdown.
Tennessee (2-2, 0-1) has lost 21 straight road games against ranked teams. The Vols might have pulled off the upset if senior quarterback Justin Worley had not been sidelined for part of the second half with an elbow injury.
Gurley had another brilliant showing, scoring on a 1-yard leap in the second quarter before breaking straight up the middle for a TD with 9 1-2 minutes remaining.
Worley wasn’t too shabby, either. The senior quarterback completed 23 of 35 for 264 yards and three touchdowns, leading a pair of touchdown drives after he re-entered the game in the fourth quarter.
He hooked up with Pig Howard on a 31-yard touchdown, followed by a two-point conversion pass. Worley then went to Marquez North for a 6-yard score that pulled the Vols within a field goal with 2:14 remaining.
But Georgia recovered an onside kick and Gurley, appropriately enough, picked up the clinching first down on his 28th and final carry of the game.
With that, the Bulldogs breathed a big sigh of relief, much like they did a year ago when the Vols took them overtime in Knoxville before losing 34-31.
Tennessee jumped ahead on Aaron Medley’s 46-yard field goal and Hurd’s 1-yard touchdown run. The Bulldogs appeared to be in control after three straight touchdowns put them ahead 21-10.
Quarterback Hutson Mason scored on a 3-yard bootleg, Gurley scored his first TD with a Herschel Walker-like leap over a pile at the goal line, and freshman Nick Chubb hauled in a 20-yard touchdown pass with just 1:17 left in the half.
The Vols, in a sign of things to come, raced down the field on an 83-yard drive that took less than a minute, capped off by Worley’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Jason Croom that made it 21-17 at the break.
Both teams were sluggish in the third quarter, the Bulldogs curiously attempting to open up their passing game without much success, while Tennessee staggered after Worley left the game, having slammed his elbow off a Georgia player’s helmet while throwing a pass. Backup Nathan Peterman fumbled an attempted handoff with the Vols driving for a possible go-ahead touchdown and also was called for intentional grounding.
Worley went for X-rays, which were negative, and returned to the game in the fourth, setting up a wild finish in which the teams kept trading touchdowns before the clock finally ran out.
Gurley turned in another Heisman-like performance, eclipsing his previous career high of 198 yards in the season-opening victory over Clemson. Most memorably, he broke off a 26-yard run that included two broken tackles in the backfield, then a leap over a defender — like a hurdler — to tack on an extra 10 yards.
Hurd finished with 119 yards rushing.
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