Hail Mary lifts #11 Vols past #25 Georgia, 34-31
Jauan Jennings caught a 43-yard touchdown heave from Joshua Dobbs as time expired to lift No. 11/11 Tennessee to a 34-31 comeback victory over No. 25/20 Georgia on Saturday at Sanford Stadium for the Vols' 11th-straight win.
No. 25/20 Georgia (3-2) took the lead with 10 seconds left in the game as Jacob Eason found Riley Ridley on a 47-yard touchdown throw which split the corner and the safety on the left sideline. However, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the celebration meant the game still had some life.
Evan Berry returned the short kickoff 20 yards and the Vols received five more yards thanks to an offside call on Georgia to put UT at the 43-yard line. Tennessee's offense came onto the field trailing 31-28 with four seconds left, 43 yards from the end zone. Joshua Dobbs sat in the pocket and launched the ball into the air. Three Vols receivers and six Georgia defenders were in the area, but Jennings improbably came down with the ball to give Tennessee their first 5-0 start to a season since the 1998 National Championship year.
Dobbs finished the game with 230 yards passing and four total touchdowns in leading the Vols to their third consecutive win against ranked opponents. It was the Vols second come-from-behind win over a ranked team in the last two weeks as UT recovered from a 21-0 deficit to defeat no. 19/16 Florida last Saturday.
Jennings finished with 71 yards receiving and the game-winning score. Jalen Hurd tallied 92 total yards and Alvin Kamara totaled 88 yards of offense with each recording a receiving touchdown. Colton Jumper recorded 11 tackles and one forced fumble. Todd Kelly Jr. added 10 tackles while Barnett finished with five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Georgia scored the first 10 points of the game as Sony Michel took a draw play up the middle and into the endzone from 14 yards out late in the first quarter. Rodrigo Blankenship added a 27-yard field goal in the second after Georgia recovered an Alvin Kamara fumble.
The Vols were about to respond as Jalen Hurd caught a 23-yard pass out of the backfield, but the junior was hit and fumbled the ball just as he was about to cross the goal line. Georgia recovered the ball, leading to an 80-yard drive which resulted in another touchdown. Georgia ran the ball on nine of the 10 plays including the final play as Michel fumbled the ball at the one-yard-line, but Eason was able to recover the ball in the endzone for the score to put the Bulldogs up 17-0.
The Vols grabbed some momentum just before halftime as Evan Berry put Tennessee in good field position with a 34-yard return on the kickoff. Dobbs hit Josh Smith on a 31-yard strike up the seam on the first play of the drive to move the Vols into Georgia territory. A few plays later, Dobbs finished the drive himself with a four-yard rushing touchdown after scrambling out of a sack and heading to the left pylon. He got there just before a hoard of Georgia defenders pushed him out-of-bounds to bring Tennessee within 17-7 at halftime.
The Vols came out of the halftime break and put together a 10-play, 65-yard drive capped by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Dobbs to Hurd. Dobbs rolled right out of the pocket and found Jalen Hurd in stride to bring UT within three, 17-14.
Georgia though added another score to reestablish a ten-point margin as Eason found Isaac Nauta over the middle on a 50-yard catch-and-run score. Tennessee responded with a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter as Dobbs hit Kamara in the flat on a crucial third down. Kamara spun out of a tackle and ran the rest of the way for a 16-yard touchdown pass to bring the Vols to within 24-21.
With 3:43 left in the game, Tennessee punted the ball away trailing by three; Riley Lovingood downed the punt at the three-yard line to back Georgia up. Danny O'Brien stopped Brian Herrien in the backfield on first down. On the next play, Barnett beat a double team on the quarterback's blindside and sacked Eason in the endzone forcing the ball to come loose; Vereen dove on the ball in the endzone to give the Vols their first lead at 28-24.
Georgia tried to answer on the next drive, but the Vols defensive line was in the backfield, forcing Eason to try to throw the ball to Terry Godwin on the left sideline.Malik Foreman undercut Godwin and got his left foot down just inbounds to intercept the ball.
After Tennessee went three-and-out they punted the ball to the 19 where Georgia took over with 1:07 remaining. Eason led the Bulldogs on a four-play, 81-yard drive capped by his strike to Ridley which put Georgia up 31-28.