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Dawgs hold down Tyler Bray

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- For Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, the first step in slowing down Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and the Volunteers' explosive passing game was obvious.

Stop the run.

"No. 1 is you've got to stop the run," Grantham said after the Bulldogs won 20-12 Saturday night at Neyland Stadium. "Even though they're one-dimensional in the sense that they like to throw it, you don't want to let them become two-dimensional and throw it."

Grantham's defense more than accomplished its mission on that front. Tennessee finished with 23 rushing attempts for minus-20 yards -- setting a new mark for the fewest rushing yards allowed in Mark Richt's 10-plus years as Georgia's head coach. The Vols' rushing total tied for the third-fewest yards ever allowed by a Bulldogs defense.

"If we can't run the ball, we aren't going to beat good football teams. That's a fact," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said.

The Vols' inability to run enabled Georgia to put the clamps on a Tennessee passing game that came in on a roll. Bray recently broke Peyton Manning's 1997 school record of seven consecutive games with at least two passing touchdowns, but Bray's streak ended at 10 games.

He finished with 251 passing yards but did not pass for a touchdown. He was forced out of the game late in the fourth quarter after injuring his thumb when he banged it on the helmet of Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson on an incomplete pass.

That was another badge of pride for Grantham's defense.

"This is the third week in a row that the quarterback that started the game didn't finish the game against us," Grantham said. "That's nothing illegal. That's just playing aggressive, playing hard, and that's getting after them and affecting the quarterback. Make no mistake about it, he's the most important guy on the offense."

Georgia knew it would face a major test from Bray, who came in averaging 332 passing yards per game, which led the SEC and ranked seventh in the nation.

He threw well in the first half, rolling up 160 passing yards and leading the Vols to two field goals on their three first-half drives. But the Bulldogs made some coverage adjustments at halftime and turned up the pressure on the Vols' quarterbacks in the second half.

The result was a young Tennessee offense that lost its composure and folded under the increased heat from the Bulldogs' pass rush.

"He's a great quarterback, and you can't let him sit back there and just pick you apart," said Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin, who had three tackles and a pass breakup. "The first half, I felt like he kind of had that opportunity. The second half, we did a good job up front and slowing things down in the secondary, so that's what happened."

And in the process, Georgia's defense put together a third consecutive dominant outing against an SEC opponent.

Tennessee's 76-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter ended at nine Georgia's string of consecutive quarters without allowing an offensive touchdown. But it was only the 10th touchdown Georgia's defense has allowed this season -- and two of those touchdown drives covered 28 yards or fewer.

"Any time you hold a team to 12 points, particularly a team that's as explosive as they are on offense, that's pretty good," Grantham said.

David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at davidchingespn@gmail.com.