Years from now, I don't know how much we'll remember from 2008-14. I know our most potent memories will be the worst moments in that span, which outweigh the good in both quality and quantity. And, if Tennessee does indeed get back to the business of 8-4 being disappointing instead of progress, I'm not exactly sure how much we'll remember from 2015.
But I do know, in the moment, this is the most important play of the last eight years.
Not since Dan Williams blocked a field goal in the second overtime at Kentucky in 2007 has one play meant as much to the narrative of Tennessee Football. There have been more impressive plays since then - Denarius Moore impossibly getting in the end zone when he left his feet at the five yard line against Georgia in 2009, the overtime pick six to beat Vanderbilt in 2011, any number of Cordarrelle Patterson scores from 2012 or all of the last four minutes at South Carolina last year. But none of those meant as much in a game that meant as much as this one ultimately did.
Because this game felt very over when Dobbs took the snap. Georgia took a punt back to the house with 3:27 to play before half to make it 24-3. That made the season feel very over, a presumed blowout on the heels of triple heartbreak and it was only mid-October. And, for many with varying degrees of rationality, that made Butch Jones feel very over.
There are a couple of honorable mentions here that didn't make the Top 25 plays list: Evan Berry returned the ensuing kickoff 45 yards to start the drive. Three plays later the Vols had 4th and 4, and after a month of crying about being overly conservative.fans were excited to see Butch Jones decide to go for it. Josh Dobbs fires an out route to Von Pearson, who falls down (the more you go back and watch film the more you hate our turf this year) but still makes a catch to keep the drive alive.
Three plays later we come to this play, 1:13 on the clock and 4th and 9 at the Georgia 39. Butch decides to go for it again. And from my seats on the other end of the field, when Dobbs let this go I thought, "Yep, that's intercepted, and this is how it's going to be this year."
On the CBS telecast Gary Danielson chuckles when the ball is actually caught. Dobbs lets it fly into traffic and Josh Smith has to rotate against his own momentum to pull this thing down. It looked like it should have been intercepted or just dropped. But it wasn't. A lot of things should have been over. But thanks to this play, they weren't.
From this moment, Tennessee unleashed its best football of the season and the best we've seen in these last eight years. I think the Vols showed they could go up and down the field on Georgia all day, but without this play and the fumble that followed they are probably too far behind to win. But this play ended up sparking one of the great comebacks of all-time, gave Tennessee its biggest win since 2007, and helped bring the conversation about Butch Jones to a much healthier place. This distance between where the Vols were before this play and where they were at the end of the night (and the end of the season) is stunning.