Tennessee, the favorites to win the SEC East, got lucky to beat Appalachian State in overtime last night in Rocky Top. To do so the Vols needed some inexplicably bad play-calling and clock management by the visitors, a missed field goal, a missed PAT and a fortuitous bounce on a fumble in the end zone.
The Vols got lucky. It happens. And it reminded me when Tennessee got lucky (and the Georgia Bulldogs unlucky) at Neyland Stadium, and what that means for Greyson Lambert. Stick with me.
Last season at Tennessee the Bulldogs trailed by a touchdown with four minutes to play. On third down Lambert rolled away from heavy pressure and delivered a beautiful pass, about 45 yards downfield, to Reggie Davis near the goal line.
Davis scores if he catches it. He dropped it. The Dawgs punted. They forced a Vols three-and-out but the subsequent Tennessee punt, also a beauty, pinned Georgia at its 1-yard line.
If Davis catches that pass, the Bulldogs tie the game. Force a three-and-out and they get the ball back with good field position and the time (and momentum) to win. But Davis didn’t catch the pass, and the Bulldogs lost.
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Lots of other things went wrong for the Bulldogs while blowing a 21-point lead. But that dropped pass was the simplest thing that went wrong. Davis, who was otherwise fantastic in that game, just dropped it.
It was bad luck. It happens.
Now think about the difference in perceptions of Lambert if Davis catches that pass and the Bulldogs win.
Lambert, who was great that day, would have finished with more than 300 yards and three touchdowns, two of them long bombs to Davis in the second half. He’s a play-maker, not game manager! The Bulldogs would have been viewed as resilient, shaking off that Bama beat down and controlling their destiny in the East.
Maybe if the Bulldogs beat the Vols they go on to fall flat against Florida, anyway. Or maybe they rally behind Lambert and win the East, Mark Richt stays and Lambert comes into this season with fans actually OK with him guiding the offense while Jacob Eason waits his turn.
We don’t know because Davis dropped that pass. No one likes to admit that luck plays a role when doing so muddies whatever narrative they want to believe. In this case, it’s the narrative that says Lambert can keep you in games but can’t win them.
But that narrative would be tougher to sell if Davis catches that pass on a day when Lambert was fantastic. Lucky for the Vols, Davis dropped it. The Vols enjoyed more good luck against Appalachian State.