ATHENS, Ga. — Trailing 28-24, and time remaining to run only a couple of plays, Georgia appeared to pull off a stunning victory over Tennessee when Jacob Eason completed a 47-yard touchdown pass to Riley Ridley, giving the underdog Bulldogs what appeared to be a three-point, thrilling win.
There was only one problem: there was still time left in the game, like 10 seconds—plenty of time for the Volunteers to rally.
After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Georgia for a player removing his helmet in celebration, followed by a short kickoff by the Bulldogs returned to their side of the field, which was succeeded by an off-sides penalty on Georgia, Tennessee held possession 43 yards from the goal line with four seconds remaining—and, time for one play.
Vols quarterback Joshua Dobbs launched a 43-yard throw toward the end zone, whereby Jauan Jennings hauled it in for the game-winner as time expired, breaking the hearts of the Bulldogs.
“The kids fought hard, and I’m proud of the way they played,” said head coach Kirby Smart of his Georgia team following the defeat. “We’re a good football team, but we’ve got to improve. We challenged them to play their best game today and a lot of them did that. That’s a response I was proud of.”
After falling behind 17-0 late in the second quarter, it was Dobbs and the rest of the Tennessee offense which responded. After not scoring a single point on their first four drives of the game, the Volunteers—a squad which defeated Florida last week, 38-28, after falling behind 21-0—scored touchdowns on five of their final 10 possessions against the Bulldogs’ defense. Georgia has now lost at least a game in seven of its last nine seasons after holding a double-digit lead in the second half.
Dobbs, who led Tennessee to victory over the Bulldogs last season in Knoxville after trailing by 17 points late in the second quarter, completed 16 of 26 passes today for 230 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also added 26 yards rushing and a touchdown on 11 carries.
After holding the lead for a majority of the game, Georgia handed Tennessee a touchdown with 2:56 left in the contest when Eason was hit in his own end zone and lost the ball, which Volunteer defensive end Corey Vereen recovered for a score.
Trailing by four points, Eason was intercepted on the ensuing drive; however, the true freshman signal-caller would have one last shot.
On Georgia’s final offensive possession, Eason completed three consecutive passes for a combined 39 yards before hitting Ridley on the 47-yard scoring shot. For the game, he completed 17-of-28 passes for 211 yard, two touchdowns and one interception, and also rushed for a touchdown as well by recovering a teammate’s fumble in the opposing end zone. Tight end Isaac Nauta, who entered the game having caught just four passes all season for 32 yards, made five receptions for 83 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown with 4:07 left in the third quarter, which gave Georgia a 24-14 lead. Sony Michel led the rushing corps with 91 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, while Brian Herrien followed with 15 rushes for 74 yards.
Defensively, Natrez Patrick totaled a team-best 10 tackles, including five solo stops. Aaron Davis and Maurice Smith followed with eight and seven tackles, respectively. Smith also recovered a fumble he forced, while tallying a late interception, as well.
Still, the Georgia defense, which allowed nearly six-and-a-half yards per play the final three quarters, faltered down the stretch, especially at the finish line.