Tennessee Vols Football: Top 10 Moments from Georgia Series Since 1980
Tennessee vs. Georgia is not one of those 100-year rivalries where the teams just hate the living daylights out of each other and fans poison one another's trees. It doesn't have the history of Alabama vs. Auburn or Michigan vs. Ohio State.
The level of hatred doesn't even approach Georgia vs. Georgia Tech or Tennessee vs. Alabama. But make no mistake about it, this rivalry, although relatively new, has had its share of moments down through the years.
The Vols and 'Dawgs didn't begin playing each other every year until 1992 when the SEC split into East and West divisions.
There were some humdingers between the two teams before the 90s, but the marquee matchups were still few and far between.
Winners of 13 of the last 20 matchups against the 'Dawgs, the Vols appear to have pretty much owned Georgia the last couple of decades. But that's not entirely true. Tennessee owned the 1990s, going 9-0 versus Georgia. But since 2000, the 'Dawgs have won seven of the last 11 in this series.
Here are some of the more memorable moments in this series since 1980.
No. 10: Kiffin Promises To Never Lose to Georgia as Long as He Is Coach, 2009
Love him or hate him, Lane Kiffin was a Tennessee fan's dream coach for one year. The cocky, young coach took on the SEC's best and brightest with his mouth for months heading into the 2009 season.
When all was said and done, he only delivered one big SEC win to back up his abrasive persona in his short time in Knoxville.
Following the Vols 45-19 win over Georgia, Kiffin reportedly told his players and a handful of recruits that Tennessee would never lose to Georgia as long as he was coaching there.
When Kiffin left for USC following the final game of the '09 season, that comment turned out to be one of just a handful of true statements that Kiffin uttered during his short tenure at Tennessee.
No. 9: Sean Jones Returns Fumble 92 Yards as Half Expires, 2003
It was one of those moments in sports when everything seemingly stops—your breath, your heartbeat, your optimism.
One single play foreshadowed an horrific night in Neyland Stadium with a full half left to play.
Tennessee had the ball on the 1-yard line, down by six, with seven seconds remaining in the first half. The Vols decided to go for it. That's when disaster happened.
Vols running back Jabari Davis was supposed to get the ball, but quarterback Casey Clausen lost the handle when it was brushed by the lead-blocking fullback. Davis never touched it. Instead, Georgia standout safety Sean Jones picked it up and rumbled 92 yards for the touchdown as the clock struck 0:00 in the second quarter.
Just like that, a one-point halftime lead turned into a 13-point halftime deficit.
The Vols never recovered and lost in a rout, 41-14.
No. 8: Peyton, Vols Rub It in
Few former Vols strike fear in the heart of the Bulldog faithful like Peyton Manning. Manning was 3-0 against the 'Dawgs in his career, and he usually seemed to save his best for Tennessee's border rival from the south.
Perhaps, Peyton's best performance against Georgia came in his final game against the Bulldogs.
The senior quarterback threw for 343 yards and four touchdowns against the undefeated 'Dawgs in a rout that drew plenty of angst from Georgia head coach Jim Donnan.
Peyton's final touchdown came with 1:44 remaining on the clock in an already lopsided 31-13 beatdown at Neyland Stadium.
Following the game, Donnan had a few choice words for Fulmer at midfield and later complained that the Tennessee coach ran up the score on his 'Dawgs.
He must not have been too mad though. A few weeks later, Georgia pulled off a rare upset of Steve Spurrier's Florida Gators, paving the way for the Vols to win the SEC East and take home their first SEC championship game trophy.
No. 7: Georgia Wins Third Straight at Neyland Stadium, 2005
The early 2000s were not very good to the Vols in this series. Head coach Mark Richt, then a young gun in the SEC, won his first three games against Tennessee following a decade when the 'Dawgs beat the Vols one time in 10 tries.
The Vols beat Richt for the first time in 2004 when his Bulldogs were ranked No. 3 in the country. But that win came between the hedges in Athens.
In 2005, Tennessee was supposed to have its best team since their 2001 SEC East title-winning team. After a loss to Florida and lingering issues with the offense, Tennessee was determined to end Richt's two-game winning streak at Neyland Stadium.
It didn't happen. The Vols made too many mistakes on offense, and Georgia rushed for almost 200 yards against the Tennessee defense to win the game 27-14, extending Richt and the 'Dawgs winning streak in Knoxville to three straight.
No. 6: Jeff Hall Kicks Vols Past Georgia with 10 Seconds Left
In one of the greatest Tennessee/Georgia games of the last 30 years, the Vols were incredibly fortunate to even have a shot at winning.
Georgia running back Robert Edwards had his way with the Vols defense, racking up 156 yards on 15 carries by the third quarter. He was well on his way to a record-setting night in the second half when he suffered a fractured left foot, ending his season.
The Vols led midway through the fourth quarter until the 'Dawgs kicked a field goal to tie.
Georgia had the ball with under two minutes to play, but their drive stalled, and Georgia missed the potential game-winning field goal with just over a minute-and-a-half remaining.
Peyton Manning took over from there. Tennessee got to within 40 yards before calling on freshman Jeff Hall to kick the gamewinner with 10 seconds remaining.
The Vols won 30-27.
Hall would go on to an incredible career as one of the most clutch kickers in Vols history.
No. 5: Georgia Breaks Vols Winning Streak, 2000
Throughout the 90s, Tennessee had little trouble with Georgia.
The consistently inconsistent regimes of Ray Goff and Jim Donnan failed to get the 'Dawgs over the hump.
In 2000, Donnan was on the hotseat, despite winning eight games or more in three of his first four seasons.
The Vols were in rebuild/reload mode following two SEC titles, one national title and three prestigious bowl games in the previous three seasons.
Tennessee's inexperienced quarterbacks showed just how young they were in this one.
Meanwhile, veteran Georgia quarterback Quincy Carter did just enough to lead his Bulldogs to their first victory over Tennessee since 1988.
Donnan was fired after the season ended after losing three (Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech) of his final four games.
No. 4: Vols Emphatically End Georgia's Neyland Stadium Winning Streak
The unranked Vols were flying way under the radar following two losses in their first four games. Their lone wins coming against Southern Miss and Arkansas State. No one gave the Vols much of a chance against the No. 12 'Dawgs and their QB/RB tandem of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno.
When the score was 28-0 at halftime in favor of the Vols, however, Tennessee was no longer flying under the radar.
Tennessee went on to win 35-14, halting Georgia's winning streak in Knoxville at three.
Georgia would not lose again that season. The Vols, on the strength of the winning head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bulldogs, went on to win the SEC East.
No. 3: The Hobnail Boot Game, 2001
Tennessee's best team since the 1998 national championship team was ranked No. 6 in the country heading into Mark Richt's first game in Knoxville. Georgia was unranked.
In a back-and-forth matchup, Tennessee seemingly dealt the death blow with 44 seconds remaining when Travis Stephens rumbled 62 yards for a touchdown on a screen pass to put the Vols up 24-20.
What transpired over those final 44 seconds still gives Tennessee fans nightmares.
Georgia quarterback David Greene took the 'Dawgs straight down the field against Tennessee's prevent defense and scored the winning touchdown with six seconds remaining.
In his excitement, legendary Georgia radio play-by-play man Larry Munson remarked, "We just stepped on their face with a hobnail boot and broke their nose! We just crushed their face!"
Tennessee went on to win the SEC East.
No. 2: Vols Put Up Half-a-Hundred on 'Dawgs Top Defense, 2006
Hoping to continue a streak of their own at Georgia, Tennessee took a No. 13 ranking into No. 10 Georgia's backyard.
It didn't look good for the Vols early. Georgia rushed out to a 24-7 lead with just minutes left in the first half. The Vols closed it to 24-14 with less than a minute left in the second quarter, however.
I don't know what Phillip Fulmer said to his team at halftime, but it worked to perfection. The Vols closed to within three at the end of the third quarter, 27-24.
The Vols scored 14 points in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. When all the damage was done, Tennessee had outscored the 'Dawgs and their No. 1 ranked defense 27-6 in the final quarter to win the game 51-33.
It was the Vols second consecutive win in Athens.
No. 1: Herschel Walker Bowls over Bill Bates
When a little-known backup running back by the name of Herschel Walker stepped into Neyland Stadium in the first game of the 1980 season, no one had a clue that a legend was about to be born.
Walker bowled over Tennessee All-American safety Bill Bates for his first collegiate touchdown and added another to secure Georgia's 16-15 victory over the Vols in Knoxville.
Georgia would go on to win the national championship, and Walker would go on to one of the greatest careers for a running back in the history of the SEC.