Bennett, No. 1 Georgia remain perfect, rout Tennessee 41-17

Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Georgia Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 and just finished off a perfect run through the Southeastern Conference schedule.

They’re not satisfied yet.

Stetson Bennett ran for a touchdown and threw for another as Georgia routed Tennessee 41-17 Saturday.

The Bulldogs (10-0, 8-0, No. 1 CFP) went unbeaten in the SEC regular season for the first time since the league split into divisions in 1992 and went to an eight-game schedule.

“Nobody thinks they’ve arrived,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “There’s things we can continue to work to get better at, and they’ll continue to do that. But tonight? They went through a tough gauntlet in our league and played well.”

Georgia already had its fourth berth in the SEC championship game in five years locked up coming into this game. The Bulldogs last went undefeated in league play in 1982 with a 6-0 mark, also the last time the Bulldogs started 10-0.

“I mean 39 years, I mean it’s special …” Bennett said.

The Bulldogs actually trailed by their largest margin this season after Tennessee scored a touchdown on the opening drive. Georgia also was down 10-7 at the end of the first quarter, new territory for the Bulldogs, who had only trailed by a field goal each to Auburn and Missouri.

Georgia responded by reeling off 27 straight points, including 17 in a dominating second quarter. Derion Kendrick intercepted a pass by Hendon Hooker, and Channing Tindall stripped Hooker of the ball – Tindall had three of Georgia’s six sacks.

“We didn’t come up here to take shots,” Smart said. “We came up here to throw them.”

Bennett converted the interception into a 9-yard TD run midway through the second, and he capped a 90-yard drive with a 23-yard TD pass to James Cook just before halftime. Cook also ran 10 times and matched his career high with 104 yards and two more TDs. Stetson finished with 213 yards passing and ran for 40 more.

Tennessee (5-5, 3-4) had five-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning, former All-Star first baseman Todd Helton and WNBA champ Candace Parker on hand along with an announced crowd of 100,074 for a team coming off a win at Kentucky, its first upset of a Top 20 team on the road since 2006.

The Vols’ biggest win in this game came in with 3:38 left before lots of empty seats. Joe Milton hit Cedric Tillman on a 12-yard TD, giving Tennessee the most points scored against Georgia in a game this season.

“Me personally, just knowing how hard I am on myself and how much of a standard I hold for this defense, I’m not happy about that touchdown, Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean said.

Tennessee came in second in the Bowl Subdivision scoring an average of 1.59 points per minute. Georgia and the stingiest scoring defense, which had allowed 6.6 points a game, simply smothered the Vols. The Bulldogs held Tennessee to 9 yards total offense in the second quarter.

“You’ve got to make some plays to give yourself a chance to play it to the end,” first-year Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said. “Red zone wasn’t good enough. Losing the turnover (battle) 2-0 hurt.”


Georgia: The Bulldogs may not have turned in the dominating defensive performance they’ve become known for this season. But they proved they could power through with several sick players. Smart said they pulled defensive lineman Jalen Carter, who had received fluids intravenously, at halftime because his fever was over 100.

Tennessee: Hooker had his worst game this season coming off his best game in last week’s win over Kentucky with two turnovers, including only his third interception of the season. The Volunteers had chances to stay in this game. But they settled for a field goal after getting to the Georgia 7, turned it over on downs twice in Georgia territory, once at the Bulldogs 17 and Hooker’s fumble came on third-and-6 at the Georgia 7. Heupel pulled Hooker for Milton on the next drive.

“We were just a little bit off. A couple throws sailed on him,” Heupel said of Hooker.


Georgia certainly didn’t hurt itself. Beating an SEC rival should be impressive enough to receive all first-place votes again.


Georgia hosts Charleston Southern with the Bulldogs’ SEC slate finished. Georgia then finishes the regular season against Georgia Tech.

Tennessee hosts South Alabama in the Vols’ first night kickoff since losing to Ole Miss.

Clemson gives raises, contract extensions to staff


CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson’s board of trustees approved raises for special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach Mike Reed and defensive tackles coach Nick Eason.

Reed and Eason also received one-year extensions keeping them tied to the Tigers through Jan. 31, 2026.

Reed, who’s been with the Tigers since 2013, had his yearly salary increased $50,000 to $800,000. Eason, the former Clemson standout defensive lineman, joined the staff this past season. He also had his compensation upped by $50,000 to $800,000.

Seven other assistants were given one-year extensions by the trustees’ compensation committee, but without a raise in salary.

Co-defensive coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn had their contracts extended through Jan. 31, 2026.

Defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall, tight ends coach Kyle Richardson, offensive line coach Thomas Austin, running backs coach C.J. Spiller and wide receivers coach Tyler Grisham all got one-year extensions through Jan. 31, 2025.

New offensive coordinator Garrett Riley last month received a three-year contract at $1.75 million per season.

Clemson will pay its 10 on-field assistants $7.475 million this season, an increase of $925,000 from the total for 2022.

The Tigers went 11-3 last season, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

South Carolina’s Beamer suspends three freshmen from program

south carolina basketball

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said freshmen Monteque Rhames II, Anthony Rose and Cameron Upshaw were suspended from the football program.

There was no reason given for the suspensions in the school’s statement Friday. Online records showed Rhames, 18, was booked last night and was being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on charges of carrying weapons on school property and obstructing justice.

“Our student-athletes know what is expected of them,” Beamer said. “They know that both the university and the football program will hold them accountable for their actions and decisions.”

None of the three have played for the Gamecocks.

Rose is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back from Miami who enrolled in January 2022 and redshirted this season. Rhames and Upshaw were part of South Carolina’s latest recruiting class and enrolled last month.

Rhames is a 6-5, 235-pound defensive lineman from Sumter and Upshaw is a 6-2, 193-pound safety from Perry, Florida.