KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee's defense has a knack for creating big plays, both for itself and the opposition.
One week after allowing four gains of over 30 yards in the final 18 1/2 minutes of a 37-20 loss to Florida, Tennessee gave up a 70-yard touchdown run to Quentin Hines that briefly caused the Volunteers to fall behind Akron. Yet the Vols also picked off three Akron passes to pull away for a 47-26 victory.
Tennessee's susceptibility to the big play could prove fatal Saturday at No. 5 Georgia, which has scored 40-plus points in four straight games for the first time in school history.
"That's one thing we stress in the defensive meeting room every day, preventing the big play," Tennessee cornerback Prentiss Waggner said. "That's one thing we work on."
All that work hasn't paid off the last couple of weeks.
Florida broke away from Tennessee by scoring on Trey Burton's 80-yard touchdown run and Jeff Driskel's 75-yard touchdown pass to Frankie Hammond. Tennessee also gave up runs of 45 and 33 yards to Mike Gillislee. The trend continued last week with Hines' breakaway.
The long runs are particularly troublesome for Tennessee heading into this game. Georgia's average of 6 yards per carry leads the SEC, while Tennessee has given up 4.6 yards per rush. The only SEC team yielding more yards per rush than Tennessee is Auburn, which has allowed 4.8 yards per carry.
"None of them are excusable," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said of the long runs. "You just can't give up plays like that running the ball and expect to win."
Georgia, a two-touchdown favorite, has feasted on big plays.
The Bulldogs' offense has produced five touchdowns from at least 29 yards away in its last two games. Keith Marshall scored on a 52-yard breakaway and SEC rushing leader Todd Gurley added a 29-yard touchdown run last week in a 48-3 blowout of Vanderbilt. Gurley provided a 38-yard touchdown run in a 56-20 rout of Florida Atlantic, while Aaron Murray's two touchdown passes included a 67-yard connection with Michael Bennett and a 36-yard completion to Arthur Lynch.
Georgia's offensive line has given its skill-position players plenty of opportunities to deliver big plays. Even when defenders have been in position to make a stop, Gurley and the other Georgia running backs break tackles so well that they can turn any opening into a huge gain.
"There have been some guys that have been in perfect position and they may have eventually gotten him down, but usually they're on their back by the time he gets through them," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I think Marshall's had some runs like that as well. Ken (Malcome) is a very powerful runner. Our runners in general do a good job of, when they get to that human equation at the end of the run, we tend to end up moving forward."