No Jamal Lewis. No problem. The No. 4 Tennessee Volunteers proved Saturday they're no one-man team.
"I think we were favored before Jamal was hurt, then all of a sudden we were a three-point underdog," said Al Wilson, who led the swarming Vols defense. "That really motivated us. It was like people look at us as a one-man team. But Tennessee recruits a lot of great players. We've got a lot of great players besides Jamal."
Tennessee (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) extended its winning streak over Georgia (4-1, 2-1) to eight games since 1988 and handed the Bulldogs their ninth straight loss at Sanford Stadium against Top 25 opponents.
The Vols appear to have a clear path to their second straight SEC title game. Four of their last six games are at home, including the only contest against a ranked team, No. 20 Arkansas.
Not bad for a team that no longer has Manning at quarterback.
"I'm unbelievably proud of our football team," coach Phillip Fulmer said. "We're not supposed to be this good."
| Tennessee was all over Georgia and Bulldogs' QB Quincy Carter. (AP) |
Lewis, the sophomore running back who gained 232 yards in Tennessee's victory over Georgia a year ago, wasn't around for this game. He suffered a torn knee ligament the previous week against Auburn and is out for the season.
Wilson reurned after missing the Auburn game with a shoulder injury. He led a blitzing Vols defense that should have been wearing red jerseys for all the time it spent in the Georgia backfield.
Georgia's freshman quarterback, Quincy Carter, spent most of the day running for his life. He completed only 14-of-37 passes and finished many plays looking up at the sky.
"It was a tough one for us," said Carter, the SEC's offensive player of the week after totaling 385 yards in a victory over LSU the previous Saturday. "I knew they were going to be coming, but we didn't handle it. We couldn't figure out what they were doing."
Tennessee built a 9-3 lead at halftime and put the game away by scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions of the third quarter.
Stephens, who had rushed for just 72 yards in four games playing behind Lewis, had a career-high 107 yards on 20 carries against the Bulldogs. His backup, Travis Henry, added 53 yards on 16 carries and the Vols finished with 210 yards on the ground.
"We don't have to depend on Jamal like everyone thought we did," center Spencer Riley said. "We can spread the ball around, spread the joy."
Martin had a shaky start, throwing an interception on his first pass, but recovered to complete 16-of-26 for 156 yards, including two 3-yard scoring passes, and set up Tennessee's first touchdown with a 30-yard run on the opening drive of the second half.
"With Jamal out, I had a better understanding of what was expected from the play-calling," said Martin, who scrawled Lewis' number, 31, on both armbands. "I really felt more comfortable."
On third-and-goal at the Georgia 3, the Vols quarterback threw a pinpoint pass to Cedrick Wilson, who got a step on Georgia cornerback Champ Bailey and snared the throw just before stepping out of the end zone to give the Vols a 15-3 lead.
On Georgia's first possession of the second half, Carter overthrew a deep pass and it was picked off by Dwayne Goodrich, who made a great over-the-shoulder interception that he returned to the Tennessee 41. In no time, the Vols were off and running again.
Martin converted on third-and-4 with a 20-yard pass to Jeremaine Copeland and the offensive line began blowing away the Bulldogs. Stephens ripped off consecutive runs of 13, 8 and 7 yards to bring the Vols to the Georgia 5.
On another third-and-goal at the 3, Martin flipped a pass to the left flats to Peerless Price, who slashed his way to the end zone to make it 22-3 with 6:06 left in a third. A few minutes later, after another Georgia drive was stopped, some Bulldogs fans actually began heading for the exits at Sanford Stadium.
"I think Tee is a good player," Georgia coach Jim Donnan said. "He made some great plays for them. He's a smart quarterback."
Georgia had only 254 yards -- and 59 of those came on a first-quarter pass from Carter to Tony Small that set up the Bulldogs' only score, a 48-yard field gal by Hap Hines.
Jeff Hall connected on field goals for the Vols from 27, 39 and 43 yards.
Small had seven receptions for 144 yards, making him the lone bright spot for the Bulldogs, who haven't beaten a ranked opponent at home since a 27-12 victory over then-No. 6 Clemson in 1991.
Georgia is now 6-24-1 against Top 25 opponents this decade -- 1-11 at home.
So much for payback.
Donnan was upset Manning was still in the game to throw a late touchdown pass in Tennessee's 38-13 victory a year ago. But whatever motivation the Bulldogs might have gained was negated by the Vols' clear superiority on the field.
At the end, Tennessee was in position to score again but Martin took a knee.
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved