ATHENS — Georgia made no apology for its first shutout in three years.
"We got our swagger back," said defensive tackle Jeff Owens after Georgia allowed its second-lowest yards in school history in a 38-0 win over Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
Tennessee Tech is an FCS opponent — a big step below the Southeastern Conference’s Tennessee and Florida, which scored more than 40 points in wins over Georgia last month.
Georgia, which began the day last in the SEC in scoring defense, needed a confidence boost before next week’s visit from Auburn, and coach Mark Richt was eager to seize the moment.
"It was awesome to get a shutout. It doesn’t matter who you play," Richt said. "... Shutouts don’t come around very often."
Georgia (5-4) posted its first shutout since a 34-0 win in 2006 over Alabama-Birmingham, coached by current Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown.
"It’s a good victory," Richt said. "Hopefully it will give us some momentum going into next week."
The Bulldogs held the Golden Eagles to 55 total yards, the second-lowest total allowed by Georgia in school history. Georgia held The Citadel to 39 total yards in 1953.
Tennessee Tech had minus-13 yards rushing and 68 yards passing.
"We were totally dominated by Georgia today," Brown said. "We couldn’t throw the ball. ... Their defensive line was killing us. Therefore, I was very conservative with play-calling."
Tennessee Tech (5-4) suffered its second lopsided loss of the year to a FBS team, following a 49-7 loss at Kansas State, but Brown said his players "will never forget about playing in a place like this."
"Some people don’t think you get anything out of this type of game," Brown said. "We were classy and played as hard as we can play."
Georgia, playing without A.J. Green, the SEC’s leading receiver who missed the game with a rib injury, focused on its running game, which ranked last in the conference.
Washaun Ealey ran for 89 yards and two touchdowns, Branden Smith had a 52-yard touchdown run and Caleb King added 71 yards rushing as the Bulldogs rushed for a season-high 304 yards.
Joe Cox completed his first 10 passes and finished 10-for-13 passing for 140 yards with two touchdowns.
Cox enjoyed the strong start after Richt considered a change at quarterback following last week’s 41-17 loss to Florida. Cox threw three interceptions against Florida but enjoyed an efficient recovery against Tennessee Tech.
"We need days like this to execute and really feel like everybody is on the same page and doing it the right way," Cox said.
Cox threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Orson Charles in the first quarter and added a 6-yard touchdown pass to Michael Moore in the third quarter.
Ealey, a freshman, had touchdown runs of 7 and 44 yards as Georgia led 31-0 at halftime.
"He’s a great back and he’s going to get better," Cox said. "He’s still learning, but he’s learning fast."
Smith, a freshman defensive back, had three carries for 72 yards. He scored when taking a direct snap on Georgia’s version of the wildcat late for a 21-0 lead with 3:08 remaining in the first quarter.
Charles, who led Georgia with three catches for 42 yards, also is a freshman. Another first-year player, defensive end Montrez Robinson, had five tackles and two of Georgia’s six sacks.
"It is encouraging," Richt said. "It was good to see our freshmen make plays. ... That’s a good sign for the future, no doubt."
Georgia couldn’t escape problems with penalties and turnovers which have dogged its season.
Backup quarterback Logan Gray, given a series late in the first half, threw into double coverage in the end zone for Israel Troupe. Tennessee Tech free safety Mary Jones intercepted the pass for the only turnover of the game.
Gray came back into the game in the fourth quarter and finished 4-for-5 passing for 25 yards.
Georgia began the day with a minus-15 turnover margin to rank 119th of 120 FBS teams. The Bulldogs had 11 penalties for 86 yards, several for false starts, to add to its SEC-leading totals.