Tennessee coach Josh Heupel takes his second place finish at Georgia this week. Getting his first win against the Bulldogs will require an A-plus performance.
For fun, I tracked down the best win over the Bulldogs by former Tennessee coaches. Spoiler: Neither Derek Dooley nor Jeremy Pruitt will be mentioned.
Robert Neyland, 1936
The general only faced Georgia twice, 1936 in Athens and 1937 in Knoxville. The teams had not played since 1925, the year before Neyland took over. And they will not see each other again until 1968.
In 1936, Neyland was regaining control after a year-long military deployment in which the Vols went 4-5 in his absence. A week after upsetting No. 2 Duke, the Vols beat Georgia, 46-0.
Doug Dickey, 1969
The 1968 season opener in Knoxville felt as a win after the Vols rallied in the dying seconds to tie Georgia 17-17. The real thing came a year later.
A win over Alabama propelled the No. 3 Vols 5-0 as they headed to 11e– ranked Georgia. The sky opened up and the rain fell. But Tennessee had the perfect answer.
Fullback Curt Watson proved to be a muddy one, rushing for a (then) school-record 197 yards in a 17-3 Vols victory. Another step into an SEC championship season before Dickey leaves for Florida.
Bill’s Battle, 1972
Sophomore Condredge Holloway, in his breakthrough season as the SEC’s first black starting quarterback, fired two touchdown passes as No. 13 Tennessee kicked a shutout, 14-0.
The win in Athens was preserved by clutch interceptions from Art Reynolds and Conrad Graham.
Johnny Majors, 1989
In his 16 seasons, Majors only coached Georgia four times. He got his only victory on his last try, 17-14, in Knoxville.
The third-largest crowd in Neyland Stadium’s history – 96,058 – was for Georgia. He witnessed touchdown passes from Reggie Cobb and Chuck Webb. Tennessee was 5-0 for the first time since 1973.
The Vols would claim an SEC title and a Cotton Bowl trophy. However, Georgia would be the last game for the Cobb-Webb tandem. A few days after the win, Cobb was fired from the team.
Philip Fulmer, 1992
Of Tennessee’s 23 wins over Georgia, 11
came on Fulmer’s watch. Four of them (’97, ’98, ’04, ’07) helped bring the Vols to Atlanta for SEC Championship games.
Without the asterisk victory, however, who knows how things would have turned out.
Fulmer began the ’92 season as interim head coach while the Majors recovered from heart surgery. The provisional tag was removed at the end of the season, and the upset 34-31 win in Athens on September 12 had something to do with it.
Heath Shuler scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The second was the winner, with 50 seconds left, following a Ronald Davis completion to convert fourth and 13. Fulmer doubled his popularity with an interim victory over Florida the following week.
Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, right, talks to quarterback Jonathan Crompton (8) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia Saturday, October 10, 2009 in Knoxville, Utah. Tennessee. Tennessee won 45-19. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
A 45-19 loss to Georgia was the high point of the 14-month Kiffin era.
Jonathan Crompton threw four touchdown passes. The Monte Kiffin defense didn’t allow a touchdown — the Bulldogs scored on kickoff and interception returns. And Bryce Brown – remember him? – capped the score.
Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings (15) leaps past Georgia safety Dominick Sanders for the game-winning touchdown as time expires during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Athens, Georgia (Brant Sanderlin/Atlanta Journal – Constitution via AP)
Tennessee’s upset win at Knoxville in 2015 was big for the program, but the 2016 Hail Mary in Athens takes the cake.
Georgia’s touchdown bomb with just 10 seconds left gave the Bulldogs a 31-28 lead. Game over? The crowd thought so. The Vols did not.After a celebratory penalty from Georgia and a fine kickoff return from Evan Berry, Joshua Dobbs threw a 43–
yard Hail Mary passes to a mosh pit of white and red jerseys in the end zone as time expires.
Jauan Jennings snatched it away for the 34-31 win. This moment was the high point of the Jones era.
Mike Strange is a former News Sentinel writer. He currently writes a weekly sports column for Shopper News.