Tennessee and Georgia will meet for the 46th time on Saturday. Like Florida, Georgia is a relatively new rival to Tennessee in terms of playing every year. While they first met in 1899, it wasn’t until 1992 that conference realignment made them a permanent opponent on Tennessee’s schedule. That being said, it certainly doesn’t mean either team has had their share of legendary moments prior to division play.
Tennessee currently holds a slight 23-21-2 edge in the series, and they will look to add to that on Saturday when 7th ranked Georgia comes to town. Until then, let’s take a look at the 10 best games that have been played in this rivalry.
#10 “My God, a Freshman!”
Retelling this one might hurt some Tennessee fans, but it involves one of the greatest players the game has ever seen in Herschel Walker. Not to mention another memorable game in this series’ history. Because of one play that has been etched in SEC lore, some people may forget that Tennessee came this close to possibly dashing Georgia’s hopes of winning a national championship that year.
Tennessee held a 15-0 lead in front of a sell out crowd at Neyland Stadium before Georgia came storming back. What helped propel the 16th ranked Bulldogs to the win was a 16 yard run from Freshman running back Herschel Walker, who collided with Tennessee Safety Bill Bates on his to the end zone, running him over in the process. This play prompted long time Georgia football radio announcer Larry Munson to make his now famous call, “He drove right over those orange shirts and is just driving and running with those big thighs. My God, a freshman!" Georgia would score 16 unanswered to escape Knoxville with the win on their way to a national championship.
#9 The Georgia Under Dawgs
Tennessee entered the 1973 match up ranked 11th in the nation and a 6-1 record (the lone loss being to #2 Alabama). Unranked Georgia, meanwhile, was an 11 point underdog, having a record of 4-3 at the point in the season.
Tennessee, led by the “Artful Dodger” Condredge Holloway, did what they were expected to do which was lead 31-21 in the fourth quarter. However, an injury sidelined Holloway in the fourth and Georgia managed to score a touchdown to bring it within three at 31-28. On their final drive of the game, Georgia quarterback Andy Johnson rushed into the end zone to give the Bulldogs the lead and the win in the 35-31 upset at Neyland Stadium.
#8 Five in a Row
Georgia entered Neyland Stadium looking to knock off Peyton Manning and the 8th ranked Volunteers in the second game of the 1995 season. Manning passed for 349 yards while tailback Jay Graham rushed for nearly 180 on the ground. While Tennessee’s offense impressed, Georgia was able to put themselves in position to win the game in the fourth quarter.
Georgia kicker Dax Langley took the field to attempt a go ahead field goal with a 1:34 left in a 27-27 game. What could have been the winning kick sailed wide right, giving Manning and the Vols a shot to win the game on the ensuing drive. After a 40-yard drive, Tennessee got into field goal range and sent Jeff Hall out to secure the win with a 34 yard kick. Hall’s kick went between the uprights as time expired giving Tennessee the 30-27 win at home and the 5th straight win over Georgia.
#7 The Hobnail Boot
Walker’s run in 1980 wasn’t the only Tennessee-Georgia game that produced a famous Larry Munson radio call. In fact, it could be argued that it was Munson’s puzzling remarks that blared on radio stations throughout the South on the afternoon of October 6th, 2001 that made Georgia quarterback David Greene’s 6-yard touchdown toss to Vernon Haynes in the final seconds the legendary play it is today.
# 6 Vols Come Up Short (literally) at Home
In Butch Jones’ first season, not many were expecting the home standing and unranked 3-2 Vols to hang with 6th ranked Georgia. Those feelings were solidified when Georgia jumped out to a 17-3 halftime lead. Thanks to a pair of touchdown passes by Justin Worley, as well as blocked punt returned for six, Tennessee came back to tie the game in the second half. A Raijon Neal touchdown run put Tennessee ahead 31-24 with just over a minute left in the game. Georgia’s quarterback Aaron Murray answered back with a tochdown pass of his own to send the game to overtime.
Riding the momentum of the 4th quarter come back, Pig Howard dove for the pylon to put Tennessee ahead by a touchdown. Upon review it was revealed that the ball slipped from Howard’s grasp and rolled through the end zone as he stretched out for the score. Georgia got the ball back and put together a drive that resulted in a Marshall Morgan game deciding field goal. Georgia avoided the upset from a young Tennessee squad, 34-31.
#5 Upset Between the Hedges
3rd ranked Georgia was riding a 17 game home winning streak as well holding the claim as back to back SEC East champs when 17th ranked Tennessee came to Athens in 2004. Behind freshman quarterback Erik Ainge, the underdog Vols shocked Georgia with a 19-14 win. Not only did the win knock Georgia out of the national title race, it help send Tennessee to Atlanta as champions of the eastern division for the first time since 2001.
#4 Best Show on Turf
Tennessee laid their brand new artificial turf at Shields-Watkins Field just a few weeks before their 1968 season opener against Georgia. Why is that significant? Well, the showdown marked the first ever college football game played on such a surface in the Deep South. It also marked one of the more memorable games in series history.
The game featured two teams that had previously won the last two SEC titles (Georgia in 1966 and Tennessee in 1967). The game even garnered national attention as it was broadcasted on ABC. Leading 10-9 in the fourth quarter, Georgia running back Bruce Kemp burst free for an 80-yard touchdown, seeming to ice the game for Vince Dooley and the Bulldogs. Tennessee quarterback Bubba Wyche only had 2:41 to work with when the Vols got the ball. Tennessee’s offense had struggled all day, leading those watching and those in attendance to have little to no faith that Wyche could get Tennessee downfield and in position to tie the game (he was 7-22 passing before the final drive). That didn’t phase Wyche, who was no stranger to playing on the big stage. The Vols drove the ball down to the Georgia 9 yard line, with the clock ticking away towards a Georgia victory. Two sacks put Tennessee back to the 21 yard line. If there wasn’t enough doubt that they could tie the game before this drive, there was plenty of it in Neyland Stadium at this point. As time expired, Wyche found Gary Kreis in the new artificial turf endzone to put Tennessee within two at 17-15. Though the clock was at :00, the Vols were allowed to attempt a two-point conversion, in which Ken DeLong hauled in the pass from Wyche to officially pull off the comeback.
Of course this was decades before overtime even existed in college football, so the final score stood at a 17-17 decision. But that doesn’t make the game any less memorable. There was no doubt that as both fan bases poured out of Neyland Stadium on that September afternoon that it felt like a win to those clad in orange and a loss to those in red and black.
#3 Shuler and the Comeback Vols
The 1992 match up between Tennessee and Georgia marked the first meeting between two division opponents. In front of the home crowd at Sanford Stadium, Georgia was leading 31-27 late in the game. Tennessee Sophomore quarterback Heath Shuler needed to lead the Vols on a touchdown drive to win the game. Shuler did just that, instituting an 80 yard drive, which was kept alive thanks to a 22 yard pass to Ron Davis on 4th and 14. Appropriately, it was Shuler who dove across the goal line for the go ahead touchdown with 51 seconds left in the game. Tennessee got the 34-31 win between the hedges.
#2 Vols Come From Behind…Again.
Georgia came into Neyland Stadium again, ranked 19th in the nation and riding a record of 5 straight against Tennessee. The Vols on the other hand were in desperate need of a win after a 2-3 start to the season. Georgia, in familiar fashion stormed out to a 24-3 lead, seemingly breezing straight through Knoxville to make it six straight.
Josh Dobbs reignited the energy for the home crowd when he hit Josh Smith for a touchdown to make it 17-10. On the ensuing kickoff, Vols special teams recovered a fumble that led to another touchdown drive to make it 24-17 just before the half. In the second half, Tennessee scored 21 points to go up 38-31. Georgia attempted a game tying touchdown pass that sailed out of the end zone to snap a 5 game win streak over Tennessee.
#1 The Dobbnail Boot
In what had become a trend in this rivalry, #25 Georgia quickly took a 17-0 lead over 11th ranked Tennessee at Sanford Stadium. Tennessee again rallied from the deficit in the second half to pull within three at 21-24 in the fourth quarter.
Tennessee got their first lead of the game when Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason fumbled after taking a hit from Derek Barnett in his own endzone. The ball was recovered to give the Vols the 28-24 lead, but even with just under three minutes left on the clock, the fireworks in this one were far from over.
On the ensuing drive following the turn over, Eason threw an interception that was hauled in by Malik Foreman with 2:10 remaining in the game. Tennessee however couldn’t convert enough first down to run off the the clock, so they had to punt the ball back to Georgia with 1:07 to play.
On 1st and 15, Eason went deep, hitting receiver Riley Ridley in stride for a touchdown, giving Georgia the 31-28 lead with only 11 seconds to go in the game. Georgia celebrated what seemingly was the game winning touchdown. So much so, they even got a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty. That didn’t matter to them, there was no way Tennessee could win the game at this point. Josh Dobbs had other plans.
Due to the penalty being enforced on the kickoff plus an additional penalty on the ensuing drive, Tennessee’s final play would come from the 43-yard line. Dobb’s took the snap with 0:04 on the clock, his line giving him ample time to make one last throw in desperation. He reared back and let it fly towards the West endzone of Sanford Stadium where JuJuan Jennings stood among a sea of red jerseys. Jennings came down with the catch to virtually wipe the memory of Eason’s pass just seconds before from the storybooks. It was replaced with the play that will forever be known as the “Dobbnail Boot.”