ATHENS, Ga. -- In the long history of the series between SEC rivals Georgia and Tennessee, there has never been a game quite like this.
Fortunately for the fifth-ranked Bulldogs, it will be one they can remember fondly after winning a track meet, 51-44, Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
"It's nice to have a gut check and come out on top," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "A lot of things happened in the first half that deflated us, but we kept them out of the end zone when we had to."
Up next for Georgia is a much-anticipated game in Columbia, S.C., against sixth-ranked South Carolina, which played at Kentucky on Saturday night.
It was certainly a great day to be an offensive player.
Quarterbacks Aaron Murray of Georgia and Tyler Bray of Tennessee certainly weren't complaining.
Murray completed 18 of 24 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns, and Bray completed 24 of 49 passes for 281 yards but was picked off three times.
Both teams had major issues trying to stop the run.
Georgia freshmen Keith Marshall led all rushers with 10 carries for 164 yards and two scores. Todd Gurley adding a career-high 23 carries for 127 yards with three scores. The Bulldogs finished with 558 total yards.
"We are better in a lot of areas, but we've got to shore up that run defense," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. "It was frustrating."
Vols running back Rajion Neal, meanwhile, rushed 23 times for 104 yards with two touchdowns for Tennessee, which tallied 477 yards.
It was a win the Bulldogs (5-0, 2-0) definitely had to earn.
With the score tied 30-30 at halftime, Murray quickly hit Michael Bennett with touchdown passes of 8 and 32 yards, the latter of which was set up by a blocked punt by Marc Deas. The point-after kick, however, was blocked.
Fortunately for Georgia, there was plenty more offense to come -- a lot more.
Marshall, who earlier in the game ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run, added a 72-yarder midway through the third quarter to help push the Bulldogs ahead 51-37.
"It was a little sloppy in the first half just giving away the ball," Murray said. "But we came in at halftime, looked at things and in the second half played pretty well."
But Tennessee wouldn't go quietly.
The Vols (3-2, 0-2) drew to 51-44 with 8:56 to go on a 9-yard run by Neal, and after one of the defense's rare stops, had a chance to tie before Bray was picked off by Sanders Commings with just over seven minutes to play.
Tennessee would get another chance after a Bulldogs punt.
But after driving inside the Georgia 40, Bray was stripped by Bulldogs freshman Jordan Jenkins and nose tackle John Jenkins recovered the loose ball with just two minutes to play.
The Vols appeared to have one final shot after forcing a quick Georgia three-and-out. But with just 15 seconds left, all Tennessee could manage was a last-ditch pass, which Commings picked off for his second interception of the day.
The first half -- in a word -- was insane.
Georgia started well enough, scoring on its opening drive after going 84 yards in 13 plays, capped by a 1-yard run by Gurley, one of the freshman's three first-half scores.
Tennessee, meanwhile, received a big play from its defense when Byron Moore tipped a pass from Murray and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 7-7 before Marshall ripped off a 75-yard run put the Bulldogs right back in front. Then the Vols answered with three straight touchdowns to go into half with the score tied at 30 apiece.
Touchdown passes of 4 yards to Zach Rogers and 10 to Neal spurred the comeback.
"I thought we showed a lot of heart," Rogers said. "We've shown we can hang there with a top-five team and go toe-to-toe with the best of them."
Georgia does that next week when the Bulldogs travel to South Carolina.
"South Carolina is a huge game, we all know that," Richt said. "They've beaten us the last two times, so we've got something to prove."
NOTES: Georgia honored its Olympians during Saturday's game, including bronze medal shot putter Reese Hoffa along with gold medal swimmers Shannon Vreeland and Allison Schmitt during the first quarter. ... The Bulldogs renamed its radio press box in honor of late broadcaster Larry Munson during pregame ceremonies. ... Saturday marked the return of linebacker Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo from their four-game suspension for allegedly failing a drug test after spring break. Ogletree led the Bulldogs with 14 tackles.