Last night moved the Vols to 11-5 all-time in overtime, pulling back into a tie with Missouri for first place on the all-time OT win list. It's crazy to me that since overtime began in 1996 South Carolina has only played four OT games and all of their losses are against us; last night was the first overtime game in the history of Williams-Brice Stadium. Meanwhile Tennessee just cranks these things out at the rate of almost one per year, including six multiple overtime games and the second longest game in college football history with six overtimes from 2002.
It's difficult to place a game like last night's in the immediate aftermath, even beyond all the reasons that have to do with recency bias and pure emotion. If the Vols stub their toe in their last three games and still miss bowl eligibility, like last year's South Carolina win this one will fade from memory over time because the season itself was unsuccessful. And if for some reason Josh Dobbs doesn't continue to mature - no thoughts of that right now - the individual memories he made last night could fade too.
But if last night was truly both Dobbs' arrival and transformational for the program? We could be talking about this one for a long time.
Here's our ranking of Tennessee's 11 overtime wins through the years, with the optimistic view most of us share about Dobbs and the Vols included:
11. 2010 - Tennessee 32 UAB 29 (Knoxville - 2OT)
The Vols blew a 23-7 halftime lead by scoring zero points in the second half and allowing two touchdowns and a pair of two point conversions to tie the game at 23 with nine minutes left. UAB missed a 54 yard field goal with less than a minute to play to get the game to OT, then both teams kicked field goals into the second overtime. When UAB took a 29-26 lead on their 2OT possession, Matt Simms went up top to Denarius Moore on the first play to give the Vols a 32-29 win. This was a sobering performance about the state of the program at the time.
10. 2009 - Tennessee 30 Kentucky 24 (Lexington)
Down 21-14 at halftime against an eventual 7-5 UK squad, the Vols took a 24-21 lead late in the third quarter. But Luke Stocker fumbled with less than three minutes to play and Randall Cobb helped push the Cats to the Vols eight yard line. Morgan Newton was stopped on third down and the Cats elected to play overtime with a field goal. But Lones Seiber (more on him later) would miss a 49 yarder in the first overtime, and Montario Hardesty capped a tremendous regular season with a 20 yard touchdown burst for the win.
9. 2003 - #8 Tennessee 23 South Carolina 20 (Knoxville)
Riding high and undefeated after a win in The Swamp, the Vols nearly gave away a decade-long winning streak over South Carolina. The Vols led 17-14 at halftime but did not score in the second half, James Wilhoit missing a 45 yard field goal in the fourth quarter. In overtime Carolina kicked a field goal, and on 3rd and 3 at the USC 4 Casey Clausen found James Banks for instant victory.
8. 2011 - Tennessee 27 Vanderbilt 21 (Knoxville)
Here's a great example of what was a truly memorable night in the moment getting thrown in the fire soon after. Tyler Bray returned from a broken thumb and the Vols looked to put James Franklin's first Commodore squad away, leading 14-7 and knocking on the door late in the third quarter. But a 100 yard pick six tied the game, then Vanderbilt took the lead 21-14 early in the fourth. On 4th and goal at the Vandy 2 with six minutes to play, Derek Dooley elected to go for it and Bray found Da'Rick Rogers for the tying score. Vanderbilt's last chance in regulation was snuffed out by a Prentiss Waggner interception at the Vol 35 yard line. Then in overtime Eric Gordon played the hero with a 90 yard pick six that had to be reviewed thanks to an errant whistle from the referee who apparently thought Gordon was down. He wasn't, and the Vols celebrated what we thought would be a key victory for the Derek Dooley administration with bowl eligibility now a near-certainty. It wasn't: the Vols lost to Kentucky for the first time in 27 years the next week and everyone immediately stopped caring about this game.
7. 2007 - Tennessee 27 #15 South Carolina 24 (Knoxville)
The best bad football game I've ever seen. The Vols knew going in they had regained control of the SEC East after Georgia danced in Florida's end zone. And they played like it early, going up 21-0 at halftime on a South Carolina team equally in control of its own destiny. And then, fitting of the nature of the 2007 season, the roller coaster took a sharp turn and Carolina scored 24 unanswered points. They tied the game with 11 minutes to play, then took the lead on a 49 yard field goal with 1:24 to play. In a mad dash to get back in field goal range, Arian Foster picked up 18 yards and fumbled, but the Vols recovered. Daniel Lincoln missed the game-tying kick, but it was called back for a false start, then he hit one from five yards back to send the game to overtime. Then Lincoln hit from 27 in his OT, and yet another Steve Spurrier kicker missed his chance as Ryan Succop's 41 yarder sailed wide and the Vols escaped in control of their SEC East fate.
6. 2005 - #10 Tennessee 30 #3 LSU 27 (Baton Rouge)
Here's where the list makes the leap. The Rally at Death Valley turns ten years old next season, and while in the moment it was as good as any other, it doesn't hold up as well for both of the reasons we mentioned in the intro. This was the only bright spot of the 2005 season; at the time it felt like we were back in the National Championship race, but instead Tennessee finished 5-6 and missed a bowl game for the first time since 1988. And the Ballad of Rick Clausen, which we all really enjoyed on this September Monday night, really peaked and then faded quickly. If last night's win over Carolina doesn't become the things we hope it will, I think it will ultimately find its place beneath this game on the list, and rightfully so as the Vols came back from a much bigger hole here.
5. 2002 - #10 Tennessee 41 Arkansas 38 (Knoxville - 6OT)
This one will remain a fan favorite because it was the first marathon overtime game we'd ever seen, but regulation play was forgettable and, like The Rally at Death Valley, this ended up being the only memorable win from a very disappointing 2002 season. The overtimes featured a missed chip shot by Arkansas, a partially blocked field goal by the Vols that still went in, and Casey Clausen finally connecting with Jason Witten to end the night. Again, if last night's win doesn't stand the test of time, this game will endure far longer than what we saw in Columbia. I heard Bob Kesling speak last year and he said this was his favorite game he's called in now 15 years at the microphone in Knoxville.
4. 2014 - Tennessee 45 South Carolina 42 (Columbia)
Here's what you want last night's win to be. As stated, if it was truly both Dobbs' arrival (no reason to believe otherwise) and transformational for the Butch Jones Era (which we can't know yet), it could be the real starting point for so much of what we want. But just as a game it's incredible by itself: the big plays, the total yardage, Dobbs doing things no Tennessee quarterback has ever done, and of course the two-score comeback in the final five minutes. It wasn't as long as the Arkansas game and the hole wasn't as deep as the LSU game. But in the long-term, this one has a chance to mean so, so much more than both of those. Again, we'll see, but I'm an optimist and so I'll leave it here for now.
3. 2003 - #22 Tennessee 51 Alabama 43 (Tuscaloosa - 5OT)
The opponent dictates the placement here. This one also had end of regulation heroics via a late drive by Casey Clausen, then a bananas 4th and 19 conversion in double overtime to keep the Vols alive. This win kept Alabama from making it two straight after ending Tennessee's seven year run in the rivalry the year before, and spring-boarded the Vols to a memorable finish, beating Miami two weeks later, and finishing in a three-way tie for the SEC East title.
2. 2007 - #19 Tennessee 52 Kentucky 20 (Lexington - 4OT)
A marriage of great regulation + eventful overtime + outcome mattered, in this case sending Tennessee to the SEC Championship Game by the narrowest of margins and likewise the Cats to their 23rd straight loss to the Vols. For my money this was the best of the Rich Brooks' Kentucky teams with an awesome offense, which rallied from down 31-14 with two minutes to go in the third quarter to the ball at the one yard line in the final seconds...when they elected to take the three and play overtime. In double overtime a Tennessee turnover put Lones Seiber in front of 35 yards and 23 years. It did not go well for Kentucky. Two overtimes later the Vols got the touchdown and the deuce, Kentucky answered with a touchdown, but Andre Woodson was chased down from behind on the two point conversion, and the Vols headed to Atlanta. Seven years later it remains the last big win for Tennessee Football...for now.
1. 1998 - #6 Tennessee 20 #2 Florida 17 (Knoxville)
Don't think this one's going anywhere for a while.
What do you think?