Tennessee didn’t play perfect, but they played well enough to win and finally captured that signature win for Butch Jones in front of a sold-out crowd in Neyland Stadium. After a week of distractions, Tennessee appeared fully focused on the task at hand and completely motivated to play winning football – even when the early breaks went against them. The Vols trailed by as many as 21 points in the first half, but found the determination, grit and big plays that had eluded them earlier in the year in games against Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas. The Vols now move to 3-3 overall, and 1-2 in SEC play, but this is a win that has breathed life back into the team and its fans.
Here are five key takeaways from tonight’s game:
Momentum-shift: After Georgia’s Reggie Davis took a punt back 70 yards for a touchdown with 3:27 remaining until halftime, the Vols looked dead in the water. They had squandered opportunities, busted plays, and were in serious danger of getting run out of their own building as Georgia led 24-3.
But something different happened for the Vols tonight. Instead of folding, they rallied. The offense drove 53 yards in 2:21 after an Evan Berry kick return set them up with a short field. Joshua Dobbs hit Josh Smith for a 39-yard touchdown on 4th and 8, and the Vols were clawing back. The ensuing kickoff was fumbled by Georgia’s Sony Michel at the 25, and the Vols were in business again. This time, Dobbs used a 23-yard pass to Josh Malone to set up a 2-yard flick to Alvin Kamara in the end zone. Tennessee had scored two touchdowns in thirty seconds, and regained momentum heading into the half.
ASTRO-DOBBS: For a player that many fans and media members said should be benched this week, Joshua Dobbs played more like a Heisman contender against Georgia this evening. After an early interception on a tipped pass, Dobbs was near-flawless. He would finish his night going 25-of-42 through the air for 312 yards and three touchdowns, while also using his fleet feet on 18 carries to rack up 118 yards and an additional two touchdowns.
This was the Dobbs that most folks had hoped to see this season, but he was MIA until tonight. I don’t know if this was simply desperation-Dobbs again or if this is what we can expect to see the rest of the way, but it was great to see him and he was simply sensational.
Welcome back, Rocket Man.
Trevor Daniel: Trevor didn’t have his best game of the season, but he may have kicked the finest punt in Tennessee history when his team needed it most. Butch Jones elected to punt from near midfield with just under two minutes remaining in the game, and Daniel unleashed a 56-yard miracle-bomb. Fans and media alike were clamoring for Jones to go for the first down on 4th-and-1, but his decision to punt was proven sound after Daniel’s smash. His perfect punt gave Georgia a 99-yard field with 1:48 on the clock, and the Vols were able to ride it out to victory. This punt will be remembered for a long time.
Look at this thing.
— kevinmulligan (@kevinmulligan) October 11, 2015
I mean, what type of magic sauce did he put on that thing?
Over the hump: After a truckload of heartbreakers over the last decade – including three daggers this season – the Vols finally answered the bell and beat a good Georgia team in Neyland Stadium. The gray jerseys also notched their first win, and Butch Jones now has a true signature win as the head coach at the University of Tennessee. This was a game that had all of the elements of last year’s game against South Carolina, with the notable difference that this year’s “miracle comeback” was able to be celebrated by the loyal fans who, once again, filled Neyland Stadium to the brim and provided a home-field advantage that rivals the best in the country. Tennessee needed this…not just the team, but also the university and the state.
Now what?: The Vols now sit at 3-3 with a bye week on the schedule. It looks like Florida will move to 6-0 with a win over Missouri, but with the Gators having LSU on the schedule soon and Georgia down the road, there is at least a little bit of hope that the Vols can claw their way back into the SEC East hunt. Alabama has Arkansas tonight in Tuscaloosa and then Texas A&M next weekend in College Station before welcoming the Vols to Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 24th. That game will be Alabama’s eighth-straight of the season and the Vols have a chance to get some people healthy in the meantime.
It isn’t a ton of hope, but it’s more than this program has had at this point in the season in a long time. Enjoy this one for the next two weeks, folks. Things are about to get interesting.
Final stats: pic.twitter.com/9IzBAHbiqx
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) October 10, 2015