Photo courtesy of Tennessee athletics
The 2017 season wouldn’t be one to remember for either Tennessee or Georgia Tech. On Labor Day that year and five years ago today, however, the schools gave college football fans a great show.
It wasn’t until the second overtime that Tennessee took its first lead. The Volunteers ultimately stopped a 2-point conversion to hold off the Yellow Jackets in double-overtime, 42-41.
Setting the Stage
Tennessee seemed to be turning the corner under head coach Butch Jones as it arrived at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 4, 2017. The Volunteers finished 9-4 in 2016 and ranked in the AP Poll for the second year in a row. Tennessee was ranked No. 25 to begin the season.
In its 10th season under Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech was also coming off a 9-4 campaign. The Yellow Jackets closed the season with four straight wins and seemed to be picking up where they left off to start 2017.
Tennessee Finds a Way
Statistically, Georgia Tech dominated the contest. The Yellow Jackets finished with 655 yards of offense to 369 for Tennessee, but two turnovers would prove costly.
Georgia Tech twice led by 14 points, but a 50-yard touchdown pass from Quinten Dormady to Marquez Callaway cut the lead to 28-21 early in the fourth. With Georgia Tech in position to put the game away, J.J. Green fumbled inside the Tennessee 10-yard-line after a long run. The Volunteers proceeded to march 93 yards to tie the game as John Kelly scored from 11 yards out with 1:29 left.
The Yellow Jackets had a chance to win the game in regulation but Shawn Davis’ 36-yard field goal attempt as time expired was blocked and the game went to overtime.
Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall and Kelly traded touchdowns in the first overtime. With the contest knotted at 35, Kelly scored his fourth touchdown of the night in the second overtime to give the Volunteers their first lead, 42-35.
It took Marshall just four plays to answer with his fifth rushing touchdown. Johnson, however, kept his kicker on the sideline.
Marshall rushed for 249 yards and passed for 120 more, but on the game’s decisive snap, he was bottled up. On an option call, Marshall tried to pitch to running back KirVonte Benson, who scored Georgia Tech’s only other touchdown, but officials called it an incomplete forward pass and the game was over.
Box score and recap:
To go with his four touchdowns, Kelly rushed for 128 yards. Callaway led all receivers with 115 yards and two touchdowns.
Georgia Tech bounced back to win its next three games, including first two ACC contests, but lost five of its final seven games. The Yellow Jackets finished 5-6 — their second losing season in three years.
Tennessee got off to a 3-1 start before losing seven of its final eight games. The Volunteers finished 4-8 and without an SEC win for the first time in program history. Jones would be fired late in the season.
While the season disappointed for Georgia Tech and Tennessee, the opener — at least for fans — did not. A contest with a combined 12 touchdowns was decided by a failed 2-point conversion on this day five years ago.