There was definitely a desperate feeling heading into this game. The Vols were a disappointing 2-3 on the season with an 0-2 record in SEC play. Two of the three losses were heartbreakers to Florida and Oklahoma. At the time, they boasted one of the craziest stats I’ve ever heard of to this day.
Out of all the Football Bowl Subdivision teams, six have led every single game by at least 13 points. Tennessee is one of them.
The Vols are 2-3. Everybody else is 20-0. If that doesn’t tell you how frustrating a situation it is on Rocky Top, nothing will. - Brad Shepard, Bleacher Report.
To say things were frustrating was an understatement. Tennessee needed a big win or else things were going to get very, very hot for Butch Jones and his staff.
Fortunately for Jones, he had Josh Dobbs at quarterback. Dobbs was absolutely remarkable on the night, totaling 312 yards through the air while adding 118 more on the ground. He also had a hand in all five of Tennessee’s touchdowns.
But things didn’t start so well for the Vols. An early interception set the Vols back, but they ended up driving to Georgia’s one yard line after a brilliant 27-yard scamper by Dobbs.
In usual UT fashion, Jalen Hurd was not only stuffed, but fumbled on the next play. Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd recovered it and ran the ball back for a 96-yard touchdown to put the Bulldogs up, 7-0.
That was the first gut punch.
Tennessee couldn’t convert in the redzone on the next drive and settled for a field goal to cut the Georgia lead to four, 7-3 - but the Bulldogs came firing right back.
Running back Sony Michel moved them into Tennessee territory quickly and quarterback Greyson Lambert capped off the drive on a beautiful 28-yard strike to receiver Malcolm Mitchell. Georgia’s lead increased, 14-3.
The only thing working for the Vols at this point was the fact that star running back Nick Chubb had been injured and would miss the rest of the game, but that didn’t even really matter because Tennessee could not stop Michel.
Two big runs put Georgia in field goal range and they were able to connect to further diminish the hops of Vols fans everywhere as they went up, 17-3.
But that wasn’t even close to the end. Just when things couldn’t have become worse, they sure as hell did. I’ll just leave the GIF below for us to revel in this play by Georgia receiver Reggie Davis.
This made the score 24-3 and Neyland Stadium was dead. Weeks of disastrous losses had finally culminated into a blowout to a SEC rival. Things were about to get ugly.
That was until Dobbs decided it was time to step up and become the leader that this team needed.
The Vols converted two fourth downs on the next drive which included a ridiculous 39-yard catch-and-run from Dobbs to receiver Josh Smith on fourth-and-8 to that gave Tennessee their first touchdown of the game, 24-10.
Finally, UT did something right and had some momentum. They were also helped out on the ensuing kickoff after Michel fumbled the ball away. Tennessee capitalized on the opportunity and scored quickly. Before the Bulldogs knew it, their 21-point lead had now dwindled down to just seven, 24-17.
The game was tied by the halfway mark of the third quarter. The Vols had outgained Georgia 151-(-6) over the last six possessions by this point and four of those belonged to Tennessee.
Dobbs was the driving force yet again on the next drive, accounting for 44 of 56 yards on offense. He also threw the touchdown to Alvin Kamara that gave Tennessee their first lead of the game, 31-24.
But the Bulldogs weren’t done. After allowing a 31-point run, they tied the game on a bomb from Lambert to Davis.
At this point though, the Vols were on a roll and weren’t going to be stopped. A 34-yard pass to tight end Ethan Wolf sparked the go-ahead drive that would end up sealing the deal for the Vols and give them a 38-31 victory over the Bulldogs - something that hadn’t happened since 2009 with Lane Kiffin.
Our own Terry Lambert wrote a piece earlier this week reflecting on Dobbs’ impact on the Vols offense under Jones and questioned how long he would’ve stayed on as coach without Dobbs. This game is a prime example of what could’ve been. Dobbs accounted for 430 total yards and all five touchdowns.
Jones wouldn’t have lasted two and a half years without him.
I also can’t let this end without the mention of one of the most infamous non-plays in Tennessee history - the drop by Reggie Davis that would’ve tied the game up at 38. Vols fans everywhere almost lost their lunch after watching this ball slide through his hands.
Was the date of this game. I am sure many of you are wondering or thinking, “Why does that matter?”. Well, fun fact it was my wedding day. Yes, sometimes a Vols fan has to make the ultimate sacrifice and give up a game every now and then.
Hey, I was so pissed after that Arkansas loss. So, forgive me a tad for being a negative nancy.
Regardless, my newly-official wife agreed that I could leave the reception and watch ten minutes of the game. Fortunately for me, I chose the last two minutes of the game and got to see the final score and Neyland go nuts.
A ton of my best friends were around me and we all came running down the hill we were on screaming, “THE VOLS WON!! THE VOLS WON!!”. Some of my family is from Georgia, so that made it extra sweet.
I then halted the wedding band in the middle of the song they were playing and made them play Rocky Top. We all danced like a bunch of dumb hillbillies while celebrating the biggest victory for the Vols in a long time.
If any moment in life could ever be perfect, that was definitely the time.