This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly column written by RTI columnist Lexie Little
The 2019 Tennessee Vols might have let No. 3 Georgia take the all-time series lead (24-23-2) on Saturday, but freshman quarterback Brian Maurer made his mark in Tennessee history with his first start and first completion, a 73-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Callaway in the 43-14 loss in Knoxville.
The series with Georgia dates back to 1899, when Tennessee defeated the men from Athens 5-0 at Wait Field on the University of Tennessee’s east campus. Since, the rivalry has been a relative back-and-forth battle of streaks. The Vols hold the longest streak (9), sweeping the Dawgs for a decade through the 1990s.
Go way back in the series and uncover other historic moments in “This Week in UT Sports History.”
Oct. 12, 1907
The Vols traveled to Athens for just the second time in 1907. Coming off a 30-0 win against Tennessee Military Institute in Knoxville, the Volunteers and new head coach George Levene headed to the North Campus of the oldest public university in the United States to face the Bulldogs on Herty Field.
Second-year head coach George S. “Bull” Whitney led Georgia to a convincing 57-0 victory against Dahlonega at home the week before. His team only won two games in his first season, earning a record of 2-4-1 and finishing 10th in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Off to a hot start, Whitney hoped to hunker down against the Vols.
No such luck. Tennessee shut out Georgia on its home field, 15-0.
“With a lead of fifteen points at the close of the first half Saturday afternoon, all dare devil work was cut out and the Volunteers settled down to a defensive game entirely,” the Knoxville Sentinel published on Oct. 14, 1907. “Coach Levene has developed a bunch of brain and brawn at Tennessee that is going to make somebody else live hard before the season closes…
“In the discussion as to length of halves, Georgia showed her nervousness by asking for fifteen and twenty minute halves…”
Whitney did not last long in his position, though not solely because of the Tennessee loss. Georgia made use of “ringers,” semi-professional players brought in to fill positions, in 1907. In the early 1900s, no athletic scholarships for football existed, so alumni banded together to pay professionals to play. Georgia and Georgia Tech both purportedly recruited semi-pro players, leading to Whitney’s dismissal and tarnish on the reputations of both teams.
The victorious Vols, however, returned to Knoxville lauded as heroes.
“The university students went wild Saturday night when the glad tidings arrived that Tennessee had won over the heavy Georgians,” the story continued. “In a few minutes after the news was flashed over the wires, the hill was in an uproar. What with guns and noise making instruments of every description all in action, the residents of West Knoxville thought a riot had broken loose on the campus.”
Oct. 7, 2006
Nearly 100 years later, the Vols once again ventured to Athens, this time to play between the hedges of Sanford Stadium. And once again, the Volunteers gave students in Knoxville a reason to go berserk.
The No. 13 Vols handily upset 10th-ranked Georgia with a 51-33 win. Tennessee came roaring back from a 17-point deficit to become the second team to hang 50 points on the Dawgs in Sanford. The Bulldog defense had allowed only 34 points on the season heading into the match-up, only 6.8 points per game.
“I could not be more elated with our staff and our team for the way we handled ourselves tonight,” former head coach and current Tennessee Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer said after the game. “It was a heck of an effort when we were down by 17 in the first half.”
Quarterback Erik Ainge led the Vols with 268 yards in the air for two touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. Tailback Arian Foster also scored three TDs on the previously stingy Dawg defense in front of the crowd of 92,746.
Georgia quarterbacks Joe Tereshinski and freshman Matthew Stafford (currently the QB for the Detroit Lions) threw for a combined 175 yards in the loss.
“We hadn’t come out firing like we did in the first half all season,” senior Tereshinski said. “But, somewhere we just lost our focus and turned the ball over too many times.”
Tennessee finished the season 9-4 (5-3 SEC). Georgia also earned a record of 9-4, going 4-4 in conference. Florida won the division and the conference, going 13-1 on the way to a BCS national title in a 41-14 win against Ohio State.
Oct. 10, 2015
Tennessee students yet again went crazy after a win against Georgia, only this time, the teams played in Knoxville. Quarterback Josh Dobbs and the Vols yet again overcame a double-digit deficit to beat the Dawgs. Down by 21 points late in the second quarter, Tennessee put two touchdowns on the board right before halftime to close the gap from 24-3 on the way to the 38-31 win.
Dobbs threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns, rushing for two more touchdowns to account for most of the Vols’ points and the first victory against Georgia since 2009.
Georgia hoped to win with the ground game, but standout running back Nick Chubb injured his left knee on the first play of Georgia’s first possession. Sony Michel picked up 145 yards on the ground while Greyson Lambert threw for 279 yards, but the effort failed to keep the Vols out of the win column.
“Nick getting hurt on play one wasn’t very exciting to see at all,” former Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “He was in pain, physical and mental pain, knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to finish out this game…
“Nick probably would have handled more of the inside runs if he was there, but you do have to give credit to Sony, and the line blocked well.”
While Chubb’s injury remained the big headline for Bulldog Nation, the fans and players in orange and white focused their attention on Dobbs. For the second time in his career, Dobbs threw for more than 300 yards and rushed for more than 100. He became the first Vol in Tennessee history to do so in the match-up against South Carolina the season prior.
However, Dobbs took time after the game to refocus the narrative.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to [Chubb],” Dobbs said. “He’s a great player, and he’s done a lot for that program, and we love watching him play.”
The Vols and Dawgs will continue the series in Athens next season with the date pushed back to November. The teams will tee it up between the hedges on Nov. 14, 2020.