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Over the years, SEC East rivals Georgia and Tennessee have had some memorable contests. One of those came on this day 20 years ago.
In a contest that featured two touchdowns in the final 57 seconds, it was the Bulldogs who got the last laugh. David Greene’s touchdown pass to Verron Haynes with 10 seconds remaining was the difference in a 26-24 win in Knoxville.
Setting the Stage
At 2-1 under first-year head coach Mark Richt, Georgia was looking for a signature win as it arrived in Neyland Stadium on Oct. 6, 2001. The Bulldogs began the year ranked, but had fell early on to South Carolina.
Tennessee was 3-0 with impressive wins over Syracuse, Arkansas and a ranked LSU team. The Volunteers arrived as the sixth-ranked team in the country and looked to have stolen victory late.
A Wild Finish
Despite leading 14-3 early, Tennessee was down 20-17 as the clock ticked near a minute. Needing a field goal to tie and a touchdown to lead, it took the Volunteers just four plays and 27 seconds to go 78 yards to the end zone.
Against an aggressive Georgia defense, a screen pass did the trick. Casey Clausen slipped one to running back Travis Stephens, who got a key block and went the distance for the 62-yard go-ahead touchdown with just 57 seconds remaining.
Clausen’s third touchdown pass of the day looked as though it would be the difference, but 57 seconds was too much time for David Greene and the Georgia offense.
With good field position to start the final drive, Greene was 4-for-5 on the final march. After two completions to tight end Randy McMichael put Georgia in the red zone, Verron Hayes came open over the middle for the winning 6-yard touchdown catch with just 10 seconds remaining.
Clausen threw touchdowns to Kelley Washington and Leonard Scott to give Tennessee a 14-3 lead after one. Georgia took the lead in the second quarter on a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown from Damien Gary and a touchdown pass from Greene to T.D. Bryant.
From there, the teams exchanged field goals and then touchdowns in the final minute.
The loss seemed like a big blow at the time, but Tennessee bounced back to win its next seven games and ascend to No. 2 in the country. A loss to LSU in the SEC Championship would keep the Volunteers from playing for a national championship. They ultimately finished 11-2 and ranked fourth in the country following a 45-17 blowout of Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.
Georgia would go on to finish 8-4 and No. 25 in the AP Poll in its first year under Richt. The closest victory and probably the most thrilling from that season came on this day two decades ago.