Today's first round match up in the Best Plays of 2009 Brackety-ish Thing puts Eric Berry's fumble return in the Georgia game against Tennessee's onside kick recovery at Alabama. Voting for this one, too, stays open until 9:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, 6/16/10.
30 Seconds of Ignorant Bliss
At stake: The FBS record for career interception return yards. Eric Berry had racked up 487 of 'em in his first two seasons, and Vol fans had been thinking it was just a matter of time before Berry got the 15 more yards he needed to make history. Five games into the season, we were still waiting.
In-game context: This game was never really in doubt for Vol fans. Tennessee drew first blood early in the second quarter with a TD, but Georgia matched the score with a 100-yard kickoff return. The Vols then went up another TD, and the Bulldogs tried to keep pace but managed only a field goal. Another TD from Jonathan Crompton and a Georgia safety meant the Vols went into halftime up 21-12.
Tennessee added another field goal before Georgia got its final points of the day -- a pick six, which meant 16 of Georgia's 19 points came on defense or special teams -- and then Tennessee blew it open, scoring two more touchdowns before the clock hit the final 15:00.
So with the score 38-19, the game was essentially over. But the place was absolutely reeking with blood and teaming with sharks, and fans just knew Berry would have his shot against the haplessly flailing victim. And then it happened:
Except that it really didn't. The play was ruled a fumble recovery rather than an interception, and Berry was not only denied the record on that day, he never did get it.
But for a few moments, crazed Vol fans in the stadium and around the television sets everywhere celebrated as if they'd just witnessed history. The JumboTron even went to a congratulatory video before those with their fingers on the buttons regained their sanity.
Impact: Hey, Berry got the ball back, and the crowd was absolutely jacked. Tennessee got a touchdown four plays later and hit the showers with a 45-19 beat down of a major, in-conference rival. That's always a good day.
A Miracle For Naught
At stake: 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: 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.
I'll never understand why Verne Lundquist was so sleepy during that call because it was a huge play. 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.
Impact: Sigh. The Vols got one last spectacular play -- a brilliant throw by Crompton to Luke Stocker to get into field goal range -- but then all of a sudden all of the miracles were on ice except for those that were color-coded crimson. Yeah, Terrence Cody blocked his second field goal attempt of the game and won the game for the enemy. Somebody say argh.