The Tennessee-Georgia Rivalry, Part II: The Nineties

In the 2009 edition of Rocky Top Tennessee (2010 edition here), Georgia Bulldog fan Doug Gillett contributed a fantastic four-pager on the Tennessee-Georgia rivalry. Although that was a year ago, the article is mostly historical, so we're re-publishing it here this week in four parts. Today, we bring you Part II.

-- Joel

Stop, It's Not Funny Anymore: The Not-So-Gay Nineties

My academic career at UGA began in the fall of 1995, at which point the Dawgs were already nursing a four-game losing streak to the Vols. Oh, if only we'd known how much worse it was going to get. Beset by crappy luck and a pair of overmatched coaches, Georgia ended up going an entire decade without tasting victory over UT.

I had the misfortune, of course, of starting at Georgia right as the Peyton Manning Legend Express was becoming an unstoppable force. In three games against the Dawgs (1995-97), Manning totaled a ridiculous 1,063 yards on 88-of-119 passing for eight touchdowns and two picks, or a quarterback rating of 167.8. His last game against Georgia came against arguably the best of Jim Donnan's Georgia teams, the 1997 squad that finished 10-2 and managed to upset Florida along the way, but even that team was powerless to stop the Vols. The Tennessee offense finished that game with 628 yards, 343 of which came from Manning's arm, and Manning's touchdown pass to Derrick Edmonds with less than two minutes left (and the Vols already up 31-13) so infuriated Donnan that when he met Phillip Fulmer at midfield immediately following the game, he eschewed the customary handshake for a stream of expletives aimed at Fulmer for allegedly running up the score.

 

Donnan supposedly harbored a white-hot hatred for Fulmer from that point on, but that rage didn't do him any good. Nor, for that matter, did Peyton Manning's departure. In 1998, Georgia came into the Tennessee game having just notched what seemed like a huge upset over LSU in Baton Rouge; the Vols, meanwhile, were without both Manning and star tailback Jamal Lewis, held out of the game due to injury. The No. 7 Bulldogs were actually favored over the Vols for the first time in eons, and Dawg fans were hopeful that highly touted freshman QB Quincy Carter could lead the team to another statement victory. Tennessee, however, thrashed Georgia once again, 22-3, and Vol fans strolled out of the stadium holding little orange cards bearing the number "8," as in the Vols' consecutive victories over the Dawgs.

That was the second of three straight years in which Georgia started the season 4-0, ranked, and gunning for an SEC title, only to be smacked back into the ranks of the also-rans by the Big Orange machine. I wasn't in Knoxville for UT's 37-20 pasting of yet another ranked Georgia team the following year, so I don't know if the Vol faithful brought little orange "9" cards to that game, but at that point it would've been academic anyway. We'd even managed to notch a victory over Steve Spurrier during the 1990s, but we were still oh-fer against Phillip Fulmer and the Vols, and we were running out of reasons to hope.

Donnan's Dawgs finally vanquished the Big Orange only when they had the good fortune to host a rebuilding Tennessee squad in October of 2000. Behind a struggling tandem of freshman quarterbacks, each of whom completed a pass to Georgia cornerback Tim Wansley, the Vol offense totaled only 248 total yards and lost 21-10. The Sanford Stadium crowd was so thrilled that they brought down the goalposts for the first time ever. Ironically enough, though, Donnan got fired anyway after losing to Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech. With a new coach coming in the following season and a freshman QB taking the reins of the Bulldog offense, it looked like Georgia's upper hand in the series was going to be, at best, short-lived.

TOMORROW: And Now, Mark Richt Drinks Casey Clausen's Milkshake

-Doug Gillett writes about college football at heyjennyslater.blogspot.com, EDSBS.com, and SB Nation Atlanta. A proud alumnus of the University of Georgia, where he served as editor-in-chief of the school's independent student newspaper, he is also a paradox: He graduated two years before Phillip Fulmer's streak over the Dawgs finally came to a close, hence his white-hot loathing for all things Vol-but apparently not quite hot enough to keep him from dating a Tennessee grad. His struggles with his conscience are ongoing.

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