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 IV.
Oh, So This Is What a Rivalry Looks Like
Those anguished Vol fans wouldn't have to wait long for a reprieve, though, for Clausen's 0-3 record against the Dawgs got flipped right around backwards by his successor, Erik Ainge. It started with the 2004 game, in which a third-ranked Georgia team still high off the vapors of their shocking four-TD stomping of defending national champions LSU hosted a Tennessee team that had just had its doors blown off at home by the Auburn Tigers. Ainge was merely satisfactory in the game, but Georgia played sloppy and distracted throughout and handed the Vols a 19-14 win that left them staring at UT's hindquarters for the remainder of that season's SEC East race.
Georgia snatched one back from the Vols the following year, as the Wheel O' Quarterbacks that Fulmer inexplicably spun throughout the 2005 season threw an overmatched, under-confident Rick Clausen to Georgia's rugged, blue-collar defense, but Ainge went back to work in 2006, and this time he had the mentoring of David Cutcliffe, the offensive coordinator who had helped both Peyton and Eli Manning become superstars and whose discipline had been sorely missed on the Tennessee sideline. Ainge had a career day leading his team back from a 24-7 deficit, and with Georgia's top-ranked defense collapsing down the stretch, Tennessee became only the second team in history to drop 50 points on the Dawgs in Athens. When the series returned to Knoxville in 2007, the horrors continued for Georgia: Despite bringing a gun-slinging quarterback and a powerful running game that featured budding superstar Knowshon Moreno, Georgia's thoroughbred offense suffered a massive coronary right out of the starting gate and watched Tennessee roll up a 28-0 halftime lead on its way to winning 35-14. Once again, the loss made the difference in putting Tennessee in the SEC title game, while the Dawgs, despite being ranked fourth in the nation by the end of the regular season, were stuck watching the game on their TV sets at home.
The next year, of course, with Cutcliffe gone once again and the vaunted "Clawfense" unable to get out of its own way, Georgia did its part to hasten Phillip Fulmer's retirement by holding the Vols to one net rushing yard and winning 26-14. I was at that game, too, and after two years of burning Vol-induced embarrassment, my immediate reaction, quite honestly, was simple relief that the series was back on something resembling an even keel. If that qualified as humility, though, it didn't last long, because I didn't even wait for the UT band to file dejectedly out of the stadium before calling a UT-alum friend of mine and crooning, "Rocky Top, you're 0-and-3/In the SEC... "
I freely concede that that kind of gloating may earn me a karmic beat down when the Dawgs head back up to Knoxville this fall for Chapter 39 of the UGA-UT feud. Then again, maybe it's Lane Kiffin who's due for a cold, frosty glass of come-uppance. But the battle lines are clearly drawn and the outcome is anyone's guess, so one thing's for sure either way: We got ourselves a real rivalry at last. Like finely aged Tennessee whiskey, it burns like a mother, but it can also be pretty sweet. See you guys on October 10.
So there you have it, Vols and Dawgs fans: Tennessee's 45-19 beat down of Georgia last year (and perhaps Georgia's "0-3 in the SEC" start this year) is all because of Doug Gillett. Thanks, Doug! -- Ed. ;-)
-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.