The second-to-last first-round match up in the Best Plays of 2008 pits two deep passes against each other. The first is Gerald Jones's excellent double move for a 51-yard TD against Georgia, and the second is Luke Stocker's 23-yard catch to get the team into field goal range for a chance to beat Alabama.
At stake: Borrowing from yesterday's Game Over, Georgia:
Chugging ahead or scrambling for the lifeboats. Tennessee was 2-3 and 0-2 in the SEC with only a closer-than-expected game in Gainesville and the fourth quarter of the Auburn game to cling to for hope. Starting 2-4 and falling to 0-3 in the SEC would embolden the Kiffin (and, by association, Tennessee) critics and add a distinctly orange tint to the crowd.
In-game context: More borrowing:
For some reason, I remember this game as complete Tennessee dominance almost right out of the gate, perhaps because the Vols had figured out that rolling Jonathan Crompton out of the pocket was The Magic Formula. It wasn't like UT scored on every drive, though, because the game actually started with three punts. On Georgia's second drive, Chris Walker got an interception, and on Tennessee's ensuing possession, it drove 56 yards and scored on a Crompton to Gerald Jones TD. Georgia responded immediately with a 100-yard kickoff return, but the Vols answered on the next drive with a fantastic reception and touchdown run by Denarius Moore that we'll see later. The Bulldogs then added a field goal to their total, but that would be the end of the offensive points for Georgia. Tennessee added another TD, Georgia added a safety, and the teams went into halftime with UT up 21-12.
After the half, Tennessee hit a field goal, and Georgia scored on a pick six. Tennessee was playing well on offense and absolutely dominating on defense, but the score was only 24-19. That is until Montario Hardesty blew the thing wide open with just over four minutes left to go in the third quarter . . .
. . . in the Game Over, Georgia play we saw yesterday. Well, the game might have been over, but the fun was just beginning. Georgia punted on its next drive, and then Crompton and Jones did this:
Impact: That nifty double move made it 31-19, Tennessee, with a full quarter still to celebrate. The Vols scored one more time just for good measure to make it 45-19, and the team notched its first SEC victory of the season.
At stake: From A Miracle for Naught:
The Corner. Tennessee had looked like world-beaters against WKU but crashed back down to earth in a loss to UCLA the next week. Jonathan Crompton had looked eerily similar to the guy he was in 2008 for the next few games, but against Georgia, he'd looked like a world-beater again, achieving an efficiency rating of, get this, 212. Two hundred and twelve! And he'd done it against an SEC opponent. The entire team had finally come together. It was turning the corner.
In-game context: Also from A Miracle for Naught:
Tennessee actually played pretty well against a national championship defense in Tuscaloosa on this day. It was a typical Tennessee-Alabama game, with the score divisible by three almost the entire day. The Tide struck first and then stayed either tied or ahead until it was 12-3 with 6:31 left in the fourth quarter.
After going three and out, Tennessee miraculously caused Mark Ingram to fumble the ball just as the announcer was pre-awarding him the Heisman Trophy. Piling miracle upon miracle, Jonathan Crompton then threw the first touchdown of the day for either team and narrowed Alabama's lead to two.
Could Tennessee pull off three miracles in a row and get the onside kick? Oh, yeah.
And they did. Tennessee had momentum, Alabama was reeling, and the Vols had the ball down by only two at midfield with just over a minute to play. First down: incomplete. Second down: Crompton to Jones for 14 yards to the Alabama 45 yard line. They just needed to get into field goal range.
First down: false start. First and 15: incomplete. Second and 15: A perfect throw and a man's catch:
Impact: That gave Tennessee a first down at the Alabama 27 yard line down by two with 48 seconds remaining. The Vols ran one more play to line the thing up in the middle of the field, ran the clock down to four seconds, and . . . allowed Terrence Cody to block his second field goal attempt of the game, this time for the win.