Tennessee and Georgia's last three meetings have been defined in part by fumbles in critical moments. Pig Howard at the goal line in overtime in 2013. Justin Worley and Jalen Hurd on an exchange for a Georgia touchdown with four minutes to play in 2014. And this year, though it came much earlier in the action, a fumble on a kickoff return in the final minute of the first half moved Tennessee's hopes from maybe to definitely. Take it away, Gary Danielson:
That ball hangs there for a second, almost frozen in time, for Georgia to grab. And it just slips through their fingers and goes into the pile. The tension builds in the pile, Tennessee fans hoping for hope, Georgia fans tensing up. The slow build of orange and gray coming off, then frantic pointing leading to a Neyland crescendo.
How different is life today for Butch Jones and Mark Richt if Georgia grabs this football in that second? Maybe the Vols still find a way to win this game, having moved the ball on the Dawgs at will throughout. Or maybe it's enough for Georgia to escape with another close win against Tennessee, where their 9-3 becomes 10-2 and our 8-4 becomes 7-5 with no signature wins.
Every play matters, and while there are a few more from this game to come in our countdown, this one, when viewed as a continuation of the Tennessee touchdown that preceded it, became one of the season's most important.