Tennessee turns corner as Dobbs wills Vols to upset Georgia

Tennessee went into the fourth quarter with a lead Saturday night. This time, the result was different.

Photo by Jordan Dajani

Photo by Jordan Dajani

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Tennessee turned a corner Saturday night, upsetting the No. 19 ranked Georgia Bulldogs in Knoxville, 38-31.

Two years ago, Tennessee debuted their new “Smokey Grey” uniforms against a top ten Georgia team. The Vols weren’t expected to win that game, but they put up a surprising fight and lost a heartbreaker in overtime, 34-31. Head coach Butch Jones decided to try it again. The new Nike grey uniforms were broken out to possibly give his team a spark, hoping that it could ignite the program, which was on a two-game SEC losing streak.

It worked. The stage seemed set for Tennessee to get a season-defining win even before the opening kickoff. Dozens of former players including Jamal Lewis, Ja’Wuan James and Cordarrelle Patterson littered the sideline, offering encouragement to the players as they warmed up.

“All of our former players coming back for this game really set the mood,” said Jones. “The VFL’s really came out and supported this football team and it meant a lot to our players.”

A scary scene took place on the first play from scrimmage, when Georgia’s star running back Nick Chubb went down awkwardly, hurting his left leg. He would not return to action.

Most of the first half did not go according to plan for the Vols. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw an interception on Tennessee’s third play of the game after Jauan Jennings could not hold on to a pass. Later, running back Jalen Hurd coughed up the football on Georgia’s four-yard line and Georgia’s Leonard Floyd returned it all the way back for a 96-yard touchdown.

Photo by Jordan Dajani
Photo by Jordan Dajani

On the first play of the second quarter, Greyson Lambert found receiver Malcolm Mitchell deep for a 28-yard touchdown and ten minutes later, Reggie Davis returned a punt 70 yards to increase the lead to 21 points.

The wheels seemed to be falling off the wagon once again for Tennessee, but Dobbs orchestrated a drive that included two fourth down conversions and ended with a 39-yard touchdown reception by Josh Smith.

Tennessee then got a big break, as Jakob Johnson forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by the Vols. Using the short field, Dobbs was able to put together another quick touchdown drive to go into the halftime break only down a touchdown.

Tennessee scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter, which made it 28 unanswered points for the Vols and helped them secure their first lead, 31-24. On the first play of the fourth quarter though, Georgia struck through the air again, as Lambert found Davis for a 48-yard touchdown.

Dobbs once again, was able to answer with a five-yard rushing touchdown to go up a touchdown with five minutes left in the game. Georgia coordinated an impressive drive on their next possession, but it was ended when Davis failed to reel in a wide open catch that would have given Georgia a touchdown.

“Those are the breaks of football though, and we have had a lot go against us this year,” said Jones reflecting on the lucky break. “But like I always say, the harder you work, the more likely those bounces will go your way.”

Georgia got another chance to tie the game, but was put in a challenging spot after punter Trevor Daniel pinned Georgia on their own one-yard line. While Georgia came close, Tennessee was able to hold their one-score lead and obtain their first conference win of the season as fifth-year senior Brian Randolph came up with a sterling pass deflection to close it out.

Dobbs had quite a day on the ground and through the air. He rushed 18 times for 118 yards and threw for 312 yards with 25 completions on 42 attempts, accounting for five total touchdowns.

“Dobbs is the CEO of our team,” said running back Alvin Kamara. “Throughout the game, he stayed level-headed and got us the win.”

“Josh willed our offense to score points,” added Butch Jones. Dobbs’ leadership truly propelled Tennessee to victory.

Josh Malone was the lead receiver for the Vols, with five receptions for 60 yards. Kamara also had an impact on the passing game, recording five receptions for 31 yards and two touchdowns.

Georgia didn’t miss a beat in the running game after losing Chubb on the first drive. Sony Michel rushed 22 times for 145 yards and was dominant most of the game. Quarterback Greyson Lambert also played well, going 15-of-32 for 279 yards and two touchdowns.

Reggie Davis had a significant impact for the Bulldogs, recording three receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown, as well as a punt return touchdown. Malcolm Mitchell pulled in five receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown.

Saturday night, Tennessee finally got the tough win it had been biding time for. Jones said it best. “Our hard work has finally been validated. Everyone was poised, everyone was confident and everyone was encouraging.”

“We grew up a little tonight.”

Featured image by Jordan Dajani

Edited by Cody McClure