Tennessee beats Georgia 34-31 with Hail Mary on final play
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Tennessee works on the play every week in practice, just in case.
Throw it up and hope for the best.
It couldn’t have worked out any better: a Hail Mary that gave the Volunteers their most improbable comeback yet.
Jauan Jennings hauled in a 43-yard pass from Joshua Dobbs on the final play, leaving No. 11 Tennessee with a stunning 34-31 victory over No. 25 Georgia after the Bulldogs appeared to win the game on a long TD pass of their own with 10 seconds remaining Saturday.
“It was a crazy play, stuff you dream about,” Dobbs said.
In all, the teams combined for three touchdowns in the final 3 minutes.
The Vols (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) rallied from a double-digit deficit for the fourth time in five games, but none of the others were like this. Not even close. The SEC East rivals packed a whole game’s worth of action into a back-and-forth ending, starting with Tennessee going ahead for the first time all afternoon by recovering a Georgia fumble in the end zone with 2:56 to go.
Then it was the Bulldogs (3-2, 1-2), going ahead when Jacob Eason tossed a 47-yard touchdown pass to fellow freshman Riley Ridley.
With the Sanford Stadium crowd celebrating like their team had won, Tennessee took the kickoff into position to take one shot at the end zone.
Dobbs hurled a towering pass that the 6-foot-3 Jennings didn’t really have that much trouble bringing down . He leaped above the scrum to make the catch, and then landed on his back as everyone on the Tennessee bench charged the field to celebrate.
“I just know to go get it,” Jennings said.
While the Vols whooped it up with their small, orange-clad contingent in a corner of the Sanford Stadium, Georgia straggled off the field in disbelief.
“I’ve never been part of something like that,” said Greg Pyke, a senior offensive lineman. “We won the game. Then, next thing you know, we lost the game. It’s heartbreaking.”
Georgia’s early 17-0 lead had been trimmed to 24-21 when Eason dropped back to pass from his own end zone, tried to pull the ball down and was crushed by two Tennessee defenders, Derek Barnett and Cortez McDowell. The ball came loose and Corey Vereen fell on it for a touchdown.
That wound up being an afterthought.
Eason had another turnover, this one an interception by Malik Foreman, but Georgia used a couple of its timeouts, held defensively and got the ball back again. This time, the young quarterback came through, quickly driving the Bulldogs past midfield and finding Ridley streaking behind two defenders down the left sideline.
But Tennessee still had time, especially after an excessive celebration penalty forced the Bulldogs to kick off from their own 20.
Evan Berry’s 20-yard return got the Vols in range to throw one up. When Jennings brought it down, Tennessee coach Butch Jones sank to his knees, overcome with emotion, while Vols running back Alvin Kamara sprawled out on his back, seemingly in disbelief.
“We have the most competitive team in the nation,” Dobbs said. “There’s no quit in this team.”
Tennessee: The Vols have gained a commanding position in the SEC East with back-to-back victories over Florida and Georgia, likely to be their two leading challengers in the division race. That not only puts Tennessee ahead in the standings, but provides a tiebreaker edge that could come in handy at the end of the season.
Georgia: The Bulldogs have now lost two in a row in the SEC, a huge blow to their hopes of contending for a division championship in Kirby Smart’s first season as coach. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back from such a devastating loss.
Georgia running back Nick Chubb suited up after spraining his ankle in a 45-14 loss to Ole Miss.
He got in the game on the Bulldogs’ second possession, running for a 3-yard gain while the crowd cheered wildly.
That would be his only carry.
Sony Michel started and finished with 91 yards on 16 carries, while freshman Brian Herrien ran 15 times for 77 yards.
Tennessee could move back into the Top 10, while Georgia is sure to tumble out of the rankings for the first time this season when The Associated Press poll comes out Sunday. The Bulldogs barely hung on to the final spot after their big loss at Ole Miss.
Tennessee: The Vols are facing their third straight game against a ranked opponent, and another tough one on the road, when they travel to College Station to take on No. 9 Texas A&M (5-0). It doesn’t get any easier after that, either. No. 1 Alabama visits Neyland Stadium on Oct. 15, finishing off the toughest part of Tennessee’s schedule.
Georgia: The Bulldogs hit the road to face another SEC East rival, South Carolina (2-3, 1-3).
AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org