Oct. 5, 2013
By Brian Rice
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee special teams turned the tide at Neyland Stadium Saturday night, keying a special second-half comeback against Georgia.
After an impressive catch from freshman Marquez North pulled the Volunteers within seven at 17-10 in the third quarter, the teams traded punts. Michael Palardy's 57-yarder was the better of the two, pinning the Bulldogs at their own 17. The field position proved crucial three plays later.
Freshman Jalen Reeves-Maybin of Clarksville, Tenn. burst through the left side to get his hand on a Collin Barber punt, sending the ball bouncing free, where fellow freshman and Tennessee native Devaun Swafford scooped it up and tied the game with a 15-yard return.
"We expected to block a punt," Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said. "We worked hard on it every week. We talk about winning in special teams and we spend an inordinate amount of time in the special teams game. We expect to blocks because we practice them so much. He (Reeves-Maybin) is an individual that is really playing at a high level for us right now in special teams. You can see his confidence growing and growing and growing. That'll start to materialize on defense as well."
Swafford's TD was his second of the season after an interception return against Florida.
"It was definitely a big momentum swing," sophomore defensive back Brian Randolph said. "It gave us a lot of juice, got the defense amped up. We were ready to go out there and get a stop, and we just fed off it."
Palardy helped Tennessee play the field position all afternoon long, averaging a career-best 51.2 yards on six punts, including two inside the 20-yard line and a long of 65. The senior knocked five of six kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks, the only exception being the opening kick, with was covered by Vol defenders at the 21.
"Anytime you can put the opposing team on the twenty-five and not have to cover kicks is critical," said Jones of Palardy's effort. "I thought, obviously, we played the field position game with him. He flipped the field a number of times and on field goals he's playing with a very high level of consistency right now."
Palardy also hit a 26-yard field goal in the second quarter for Tennessee's opening score of the game and was a perfect 4-4 on extra-point attempts.
"I try and balance everything out," Palardy said of juggling the punting and kicking duties and excelling at both thus far in 2013. "I try to be as consistent in all three as I possibly can. It's just a lot more confidence that Coach Jones and his staff have instilled in me. In the spring, he was in my face saying that play at kicker and punter is all consistency."