ATHENS — Well, maybe it’s Tennessee’s year after all.
In a game for the ages, the Volunteers’ topped the Bulldogs’ last-second touchdown bomb with one of their own. Josh Dobbs’ 43-yard Hail Mary pass with no time remaining on the clock was caught by wide receiver Jauan Jennings for a game-winning touchdown in a 34-31 thriller. The 6-foot-3 Jennings out-jumped Georgia’ 6-foot safety Dominick Sanders and 6-6 outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter for the football. The Bulldogs had seven defenders in the end zone.
“Sick way to end the game, obviously,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “It’s something we defend against every Thursday in practice for the last 18, 19 years. … Very disappointing to end the game that way.”
The play trumped the heroics of Georgia freshman Jacob Eason just seconds earlier. Eason hit freshman wide receiver Riley Ridley with a 47-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds remaining to bring the Bulldogs back from the brink of what had looked like certain defeat. But a personal foul celebration penalty because a UGA player ran onto the field with his helmet off in the chaos immediately following was assessed on the ensuing kickoff and resulted in improved Tennessee field position for the final play.
Eason’s bomb atoned for a fumble less than three minutes earlier that came when he was sacked by Tennessee’s Derek Barnett. The ball was recovered by Corey Vereen for a touchdown for the Vols’ first lead of the game.
The Vols improved to 5-0 and 2-0 in the SEC. Georgia (3-2, 2-1) needs Tennessee to lose three times now to contend for the East.
Tennessee had not beaten Georgia in Sanford Stadium in 10 years. After losing five in a row to the Bulldogs, the Vols has now won the past two games in the series.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Star of game: You have to go with Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs. The senior from Alpharetta finished with 230 yards on 16-of-26 passing and three touchdowns. Dobbs also accounted for five touchdowns in last year’s win over Georgia in Knoxville.
- Turning point: Georgia led 17-0 with exactly two minutes remaining in the first half when Tennessee took over at the 36 after a 34-yard kickoff return. A 31-yard pass to Josh Smith quickly got the Vols into Georgia territory. Eventually, Dobbs would score on a 4-yard run on a scramble play that had to be reviewed to see whether he was out of bounds before crossing the plane. The TD call stood up, and that gave the Vols a score 12 seconds before halftime, with them knowing they’d receive the second-half kickoff.
- Questions answered: Once again, Eason showed a penchant for making big plays for the Bulldogs. Had the Vols not pulled off the Hail Mary play at the end, he would have logged his second last-minute, game-winning TD of the young season. Eason was 17-of-28 for 211 yards and two touchdowns in the game. He was sacked three times and threw on interception.
- Questions looming: What will Nick Chubb’s availability be going forward? The Bulldogs’ star tailback was questionable for this game with an ankle injury suffered against Ole Miss. He warmed up Saturday and went into the game for one play on Georgia’s second offensive possession. He had a 3-yard carry at left tackle and did not return.
- What it means: The loss will make it very, very difficult for the Bulldogs to contend for the Eastern Division championship.