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Ainge, Tennessee win shootout with error-prone Georgia

Oct 8, 2006 - 3:23 AM ATHENS, Georgia (Ticker) -- Erik Ainge and Tennessee happily took advantage of Georgia's second-half mistakes.

Ainge threw two touchdowns and ran for another score as the 13th-ranked Volunteers rallied past the 10th-ranked Bulldogs, 51-33, in a wild Southeastern Conference contest.

Ainge completed 25-of-38 passes for 268 yards and Arian Foster ran for three TDs for Tennessee (4-1, 2-1 SEC East), which surpassed by 17 points the combined total of Georgia's first five opponents this season.

"We knew we could make plays and move the ball on Georgia," Ainge said. "After our defense put up a few stops, we knew we were going to win. I'm not surprised we put up 51 points, we practiced and prepared hard for this and we knew what to do. The coaches did a good job putting in the game plan and we executed."

The Bulldogs, who had yielded a national-best 6.8 points per game entering this one, surrendered their most points in a SEC game since a 52-17 loss to Florida on October 28, 1995.

"We were just not able to stop them," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We had turnovers deep in our territory and a blocked punt for a touchdown. There was not enough good to offset the bad."

Tennessee trailed, 27-24, before Ainge tossed a 15-yard touchdown to Robert Meachem in the back left corner of the end zone 42 seconds into the fourth quarter. Less than 90 seconds later, Vols safety Antonio Wardlow blocked Gordon Ely-Kelso's punt in the end zone and recovered for a touchdown and a stunning 38-27 lead.

Georgia (5-1, 2-1 East) got right back in the contest on Thomas Brown's school record-tying 99-yard kickoff return for a score, but Ainge marched the Vols right back down the field, and they took a 44-33 lead on a one-yard run by Foster with 8:15 to play.

Marvin Mitchell forced a fumble with a hit on Bulldogs quarterback Joe Tereshinski III and Jerod Mayo recovered with 7:04 left, and Foster capped the scoring with a two-yard run just over four minutes later.

Tereshinski, who had not played since suffering a high ankle sprain against South Carolina on September 9, went 12-of-20 for 164 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for Georgia, which had won five of the previous six meetings.

Georgia opened a 24-7 lead on an eight-yard pass from Tereshinski to fullback Brannan Southerland with 4:50 to go in the second quarter, but Foster gave the Vols momentum with a one-yard run with 50 seconds to go before the break.

Tereshinski had a pass tipped and intercepted by Antwan Stewart barely a minute into the second half, leading to a one-yard TD run by Ainge that pulled Tennessee within 24-21.

"We hadn't come out firing like we did in the first half all season," Tereshinski said. "But somewhere we just lost our focus and turned the ball over too many times. ... We worked hard tonight but made a bunch of mistakes. It was a different team that came out of the locker room in the second half."

Georgia's Andy Bailey and Tennessee's James Wilhoit traded field goals before Tereshinski again was picked off, this time by Jonathan Wade, late in the third quarter, leading to Ainge's go-ahead TD pass.

"I could not be more elated with our staff and our team for the way we handled ourselves tonight," Fulmer said. "It was a heck of an effort when we were down by 17 in first half. I did not think we could slow them down and we overcame that. We got a short field two or three times and it helped us to take momentum. Our defense came up big to get the ball back a couple of times."

Georgia trailed, 7-3, before Southerland scored on a one-yard run on the final play of the first quarter. The Bulldogs pushed their advantage to 17-7 on an 86-yard punt return by Mikey Henderson.

"There was excitement on the return teams," Richt said. "On the kickoff returns it was either feast or famine. The return by Mikey was tremendous. We almost got a block on that one, too."

Bulldogs safety Tra Battle tried to remain optimistic after the defeat.

"I believe we still have a shot at the SEC championship," Battle said. "This is one of things you have to live with. There are so many great teams in the SEC. Just like in the Arkansas-Auburn game today, you just have to be ready every week."

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