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Josh Dobbs' second half made Saturday the best game of his career

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A shaky start in a shaky season turned into the best game of the Vol junior's career, changing the narrative of both team and quarterback.

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Many of us have pointed to the fourth down touchdown pass to Josh Smith as Saturday's most important play, the catalyst for a comeback.  Before Dobbs let that ball fly he was just 11 of 23 for 123 yards (5.3 YPA) and an interception.  But even just after the big 39 yard strike for six, Dobbs was still a little shaky:  he fired into quadruple coverage but survived on the first play after Georgia's fumble of the ensuing kickoff, and Josh Malone did most of the work on his own getting the Vols in striking distance just before halftime.

But in the second half, it was a very different story.

Tennessee's opening drive of the third quarter was derailed by a familiar script:  a huge loss on first down, in this case Alvin Kamara going backward for four yards near midfield, leading to a completion to Kamara for a loss of two more and an incomplete pass to end the drive.  The Vols made Georgia punt after going three-and-out and got the ball right back.  And the rest of the way home, Josh Dobbs was incredible.

Here are Tennessee's final 34 offensive snaps, from down 24-17 to punting on 4th and 1 with a 38-31 lead in the final minute:

  • Dobbs to Josh Smith 1 yd
  • Dobbs to Josh Malone 9 yds
  • Dobbs run 2 yds
  • Dobbs to Preston Williams 33 yds
  • Jalen Hurd run 20 yds
  • Dobbs run 1 yd (TD, game tied 24-24)
  • Dobbs run no gain
  • Dobbs to Josh Malone 16 yds
  • Hurd run 6 yds
  • Dobbs run 26 yds
  • Alvin Kamara run 3 yds
  • Hurd run 2 yds
  • Dobbs to Kamara 2 yds (TD, UT 31-24)
  • Hurd run no gain
  • Dobbs run 17 yds
  • Hurd run 12 yds
  • Dobbs run no gain
  • Dobbs to Alex Ellis 7 yds
  • Dobbs run 8 yds
  • Dobbs run 3 yds
  • Dobbs to Hurd -3 yds
  • Dobbs to Malone 4 yds
  • Dobbs incomplete pass (punt, game tied 31-31)
  • Hurd run no gain
  • Dobbs to Ethan Wolf for 34 yds
  • Hurd run 2 yds
  • Dobbs incomplete pass
  • Dobbs to Ellis 24 yds
  • Hurd run 5 yds
  • Dobbs run 8 yds
  • Dobbs run 5 yds (TD, UT 38-31)
  • Dobbs run 7 yds
  • Dobbs run 2 yds
  • Dobbs run no gain (punt, UT 38-31)
In the game's most crucial sequence, Dobbs was called on to make the play on 25 of the Vols' final 34 snaps.  He ran 13 times, including the final five calls, for 78 yards (six yards per carry) and a pair of touchdowns.  And he was 10 of 12 passing (with a downfield drop by Preston Williams) for 127 yards (10.5 ypa) with a touchdown and two huge downfield completions on the game-winning drive.

He did it against a defense that came in giving up just 4.5 yards per play.  Again, this wasn't South Carolina, Kentucky, Bowling Green or an Iowa team that didn't want to be there.  Georgia presented a tough test defensively, and Dobbs got into a rhythm in the second half and was spectacular in response.

Did Dobbs flip a switch, did DeBord's play calling do it, or something else?  Not sure, but he was certainly playing with a ton of confidence at the end of the game.  The Vol quarterback played the best game of his career, with numbers similar to what we saw against South Carolina in a game of even greater importance against a significantly better defense.  The comeback against Carolina was a sign of things to come.  His play on Saturday is more a picture of what the Vol offense can be when it gets/allows its quarterback to be dynamic.