We have Hardesty against Hardesty again this morning in the Best Plays of 2009 bracket. His Halloween spin move versus South Carolina goes up against his escape artist TD versus Virginia Tech. Voting for this one stays open until 9:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, 6/20/10.
Hardesty's Wicked, Double-Whiff Spin Move
At stake: The tank. Despite playing #1 Florida closer than anyone expected, appearing to have turned the corner with a very satisfying win against Georgia, and nearly beating #2 Alabama, Tennessee had a losing record (3-4) more than halfway through the season. Lose to South Carolina at home, and any positive vibes would likely be lost.
In-game context: Tennessee caused a stir storming out of the tunnel in black jerseys, and Janzen Jackson caused a fumble on the Gamecocks' third play. The Vols recovered, and two plays later, Austin Johnson was in the end zone on a beautifully designed and well-executed seam pass from Jonathan Crompton. Okay, good start.
Two plays later, Rico McCoy caused another South Carolina fumble, and the Vols recovered. Four plays after that, Montario Hardesty not only scored, he got himself on Gameday with one of the best double-whiff spin moves you'll ever see:
Impact: Eleven plays into the game, and UT was up 14-0. Okay, rout on. The Vols caused another fumble early in the second quarter and converted that one into a TD as well to go up 21-0, and they eventually won 31-13 and evened the season record at 4-4.
Hardesty Gets . . . AWAY!
At stake: As we said in Hokie Pokin' yesterday, the Vols were looking at the difference between 8-5 and 7-6 and an improvement over 2008 of three games instead of two when they met Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. They could end the season on a positive note and feel good about the prospect of building in 2010 on the relatively solid foundation they'd put down in 2009. Ahem. Right.
In-game context: Again, Tennessee was struggling against Virginia Tech, gaining only 11 yards in their first three drives. Meanwhile, the Hokies had gone out to a 14-0 lead. Right after the Hokies scored their second TD, though, Tennessee put together an 80-yard drive that ended with Montario Hardesty actually doing the Hokey Pokey:
You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around
That's what it's all about.
Impact: So yeah, Tennessee narrowed the game to 14-7, and then got an interception two Tech drives later and followed it up with Hardesty's Hokie Pokin' to tie the game and seize momentum with the half almost over. But as we said discussing that play, VT hit a bomb and scored a field goal in nine seconds to re-take the lead and establish ownership of the momentum we'd just borrowed. Tech won 37-14, and two weeks later, Tennessee was laying another foundation.