Georgia’s biggest impact player may not have been one of the 11 players on the field, but the 92,746 fans surrounding it.
Despite what was said about the environment during the week, Sanford Stadium was definitely rocking on Saturday.
“Definitely louder than we expected,” Jacob Warren told Off The Hook Sports. “I think just because we played a lot at home and we hear that environment. It doesn’t quite seem as loud as Neyland, but that’s because Neyland is never loud whenever I’m on the field, it’s quiet. So it’s a little bit different whenever you’re on the sidelines and get some energy from it. But yeah it just causes problems as far as being able to communicate and being able to hear the cadence or the clap or whatever it may be.”
The crowd noise caused problems for Tennessee. The offensive unit seemed confused for much of Saturday.
The Volunteers suffered eight pre-snap penalties – seven of the eight were false starts.
“We just had a lot of self-inflicted things as far as penalties and missed assignments, wrong alignments and people not getting the calls or whatever it may be,” Warren said. “At the end of the day, Georgia has a good team too, right there, one of the top teams in the country. And so you mix those two things and it’s just going to end up being a bad day for you.”
Many teams – including Tennessee – prepare for hostile environments by pumping in crowd noise from speakers. Practicing silent counts while a speaker is blaring in your ear may help, but it does not replicate 90,000+ angry fans barking at you “between the hedges.”
“The crowd did a good job of continuing to bring that energy,” Warren said. “And that was just because of the way the game was going. Right early on. They’re going to be loud. They’re going to be rowdy.”
Another talking point ahead of Tennessee’s matchup in Athens was the Volunteers’ hurry-up offense. The idea was that if your offense is moving so fast, there’s no time for opposing fans to get loud and affect you.
In previous games, this may have been true. When Tennessee went to Death Valley, the Volunteers scored so quickly LSU fans never had anything to cheer about.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, their offense had no life in Athens. The Volunteers were held to a season-low 289-yards on 75 plays.
On top of that, Georgia seemed like they were able to score at will. A bad combination for a team trying to silence the crowd.
“If you’re able to put a drive together, the first drive, you’ve got to put a drive together and go out there and kind of quiet the crowd,” Warren said. “It seems like that kind of dies off as the day goes on for us. You know we go, they stop us, we kick a field goal, they score, right? The series of events that happen. It’s just like we knew that crowd wasn’t going anywhere because they were now super invested in the game and got that little glimmer of hope. And yeah, then the rain comes and they get even more rowdy.”