It was called the DobbNail boot, The Miracle Between the Hedges and many other things on social media.
Butch Jones had no words for Joshua Dobbs’ desperation heave to Jauan Jennings that won the game 34-31 with no time left on the clock in Athens, sending UT to its first 5-0 start since 1998.
ROCKET MAN!!! pic.twitter.com/MfgyfuvxqT
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) October 1, 2016
“Indescribable,” Jones told CBS seconds after the play. “Just the grittiness of this football team. We called a timeout to get a look for what they were going to see, and I told our guys, ‘We’re going to make this play.’ You have to believe. Somebody came and put a cross on my shoe, and you know what – senior quarterback (Dobbs), Jauan Jennings, goes up makes the play.”
Jones passed on the option of sending Aaron Medley out for what would’ve been approximately a 60-yard field goal that could’ve tied the game at the end of regulation.
The Vols (5-0, 2-0 SEC) had that option thanks to a short field that was set up by an unsportsmanlike conduct call on UGA after the Bulldogs looked to have clinched the game themselves on a 47-yard pass from Jacob Eason to Riley Ridley that put the Bulldogs up 31-28 with 10 seconds remaining.
Out of timeouts, and with the clock under 20 seconds, Eason unleashed a perfect ball as Ridley slipped behind UT cornerback Malik Foreman for what looked to be the dagger in UT’s hopes for its first road win over a ranked team since 2006. But a Georgia player got too exuberant after the play and took his helmet off on the field.
That seemed largely inconsequential until Evan Berry returned the ensuing kickoff to the UGA 48. The Vols then tacked on 5 yards to the end of the return due to Georgia being offsides on the kick. That’s when Jones took a timeout, mulled it over, and sent his senior quarterback and Georgia native back on the field to try to win it with :04 remaining.
“He said ‘we’re going to get it – it’s not a Hail Mary, we’re going to go out and make a play,'” Dobbs told CBS.
That’s exactly what he did.
Georgia sent three men, Dobbs had time, stepped up and unleashed a perfectly-thrown ball into the end zone. The Vols were outnumbered there, but it was Jennings, who had a massive touchdown reception against Florida last week, who went up and secured the catch in traffic – cementing himself as a UT legend in a span of just a couple weeks.
“Just very poised,” Jones said of Dobbs to CBS. “He’s played two back-to-back games and coming here, again, a lot of adversity, we find a way to win the football game and that’s what this football team is all about: Character.”
That character was tested all afternoon as the Vols battled a growing list of injuries and a Georgia offense that looked rejuvenated after being dismantled 42-14 the week before at Ole Miss.
The Vols, playing without a host of key defenders including Cam Sutton, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Darrin Kirkland JR. and others, struggled to get regular stops on defense, particularly on the ground. With Nick Chubb taking just one carry due to an ankle injury, Sony Michel led the way with 91 yards on 16 carries, pacing a UGA (3-2, 1-2 SEC) attack that finished the game with 181 yards on the ground.
Tennessee, as it has in four of its five games this season, fell behind by multiple scores in this game. Georgia jumped out to a 17-0 lead before UT got on the board with a gritty Dobbs scramble to the pylon late in the first half to cut it to 17-7 at the break.
That somewhat mitigated the sting of a costly and humiliating Jalen Hurd fumble at the 1-yard line earlier in the half on a play where he appeared to start jogging toward the end zone on the final steps before getting blindsided and coughing up the ball.
Hurd, who left the game early with what Jones called a lower-body injury, got some redemption when he got loose and made a 19-yard touchdown reception early in the second half to pull UT back to within three. Unlike Florida last week, Georgia didn’t buckle when the Vols started rallying.
Eason found freshman tight end Isaac Nauta for a 50-yard catch and run to extend the lead to 24-14 again. Dobbs answered with a quick-out to Alvin Kamara that he turned into a 16-yard touchdown reception on the first play of the fourth quarter to cut it to 24-21.
The defense claimed he first UT lead when Derek Barnett got to Eason in the end zone with just under three minutes to go, knocked the ball out and Corey Vereen hopped on it for the go-ahead score. Foreman picked Eason off on the ensuing drive, UT then went three-and-out and Georgia got it back after a punt, setting up one of the most wild 1:07 in recent college football history.
“I still can’t believe that happened – that’s crazy,” Dobbs added. “You see Hail Mary’s, you never think you’ll be part of one. We’ll take it. We’re 5-0, we’ll keep going.”