Gather round, children, and we'll share stories of the good ol' days...
Jay Graham 96 Alabama
For my money, the best run in Neyland Stadium history. The video is cued up to tell the story of the game to this point just before the play. Alabama was undefeated, and overtime was brand new in 1996, and so on 2nd and 12 and the clock running under three minutes, the assumption was we're playing for OT. But Graham changed everything on this run - it was Tennessee's first win over Alabama in Knoxville in a dozen years, the second in a row after the beatdown in Birmingham the year before. And to beat them this way - down 13-0 in the third quarter, making every play we had to make down the stretch - truly changed the course of this most important rivalry. No longer would Alabama find a way to beat Tennessee against all odds. With this run, Jay Graham turned the Tide.
Mose Phillips 92 Florida
This one doesn't make the list without the rain, but the rain made it a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Tennessee, under the guidance of interim head coach Phillip Fulmer as Johnny Majors continued to recover from heart surgery, had upset a great Georgia team in Athens 34-31 in week two. The Dawgs gained 600+ yards of offense but turned the ball over six times. But now it would all come back to earth, at home against Steve Spurrier and #4 Florida. But the Vol defense came to life, and Heath Shuler had led Tennessee to a 17-7 lead late in the third quarter.
Then came the rain. It's stunning to see it again in real-time - if you back up the video just a bit, look at the difference between 16:45 and 17:45 on the YouTube clip. That's sixty seconds. And when you're up ten on the hated Gators and playing at home, you embrace the flood with a fury. What followed are fifteen of the most fun minutes in UT football history - the Phillips play put the nail in the coffin in the final minutes of the third quarter, and features my favorite end zone celebration ever (quality over quantity, always). The play came at the peak of the storm, which knocked ABC's feed offline immediately following. But it returned in time for Florida's next drive and Tennessee's response, which was simply the icing on the cake. If you have time and especially if you're too young to remember 1992, just watch from 16:45 until about 32:00. Natural grass and better technology won't allow for something like this again, let alone such a huge upset that suddenly turned into such a huge blowout. This was pure joy - note at the start of the clip, those are Tennessee fans, not Gator fans, doing the chomp.
All four polls in this week's voting close at midnight tonight. We'll be back Tuesday-Friday next week with the other four first round matchups in our Best Plays Bracket.