Since the departure of Kyle Weblog, I have been going through Georgia football history withdrawal. I figured I would attempt to take Dawg Sports readers on an excursion throughout the glorious history of our program, but with a bit of a twist. I plan on launching a series where we will go through the 2013 football schedule with yours truly selecting a past memorable game against each foe, provided there has been one.
Without further ado, I present you with Georgia's most monumental showdown with the Tennessee Volunteers.
October 6, 2001
Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN
Georgia: 26, Tennessee: 24
Interestingly enough, the Georgia Bulldogs and Tennessee Volunteers, who don't care much for one another these days, never shared much of a football history until the Southeastern Conference split into two divisions before the 1992 season. Until the teams' first meeting as members of the newly formed SEC Eastern Division that year, the teams had only met 21 times with Georgia holding a slender 10-9-2 series advantage. However, by the 2001 contest, momentum in the series had drifted northward. From 1989 to 1999, the Vols had won nine straight games (the teams did not play each other in 1990 and '91) in the series. In 2000, Coach Jim Donnan's last Bulldog team beat Tennessee 21-10. The long-awaited victory over our brightly clad neighbors to the north was deemed so momentous that the UGA students stormed the field and tore down the goal posts after the final whistle. The table was now set for the 2001 showdown in Knoxville.
Sixth-ranked Tennessee opened the scoring early in the first quarter with a touchdown pass from QB Casey Clausen to Kelley Washington. Unranked Georgia answered on their next drive with a Billy Bennett field goal, but the Vols took a commanding lead later that quarter on another Clausen TD pass, this one to Leonard Scott. At the end of the first, Tennessee led 14-3.
The Georgia defense held the Vols on their opening drive of the second quarter and Damien Gary immediately lifted the spirits of the Bulldog Nation with a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown. Later in the quarter, Georgia redshirt freshman QB David Greene hit T.D. Bryant for a 15-yard TD pass that gave Georgia their first lead of the game. The Dawgs' 17-14 lead was short-lived as the Vols tacked on a field goal on the ensuing drive. At the half, the teams were tied at 17.
Stellar defensive play by both teams resulted in a scoreless third quarter. Bennett broke the scoreboard silence with a FG about ten minutes into the fourth. The Dawgs now led 20-17. But UT wasn't done. In the last minute of play, Clausen hit Travis Stephens on a screen pass for a 62-yard TD. The Volunteer faithful erupted, thinking that this play had sealed the victory. There were 44 seconds remaining in the game and time was running out on Georgia, who now trailed Tennessee 24-20. The bulldog, however, is a breed renowned for its stubbornness and these Dawgs refused to say die.
Undaunted, the Dawgs took over at their own 35. Greene hit Gary on an option route for a first down. His next pass fell incomplete. Greene then completed a pass to Randy McMichael for 26 yards and the Dawgs were now at the Vol 20. Greene found McMichael again on an inside post for a 14-yard gain, putting Georgia at the Tennessee 6. On the next play, with 0:10 left in the game, David Greene would forever etch his name in the annals of Georgia football with a six-yard, game-clinching TD pass to Verron Haynes. Larry Munson immortalized this miraculous play for future generations of Georgia fans with his legendary Hobnail Boot call. Greene took a knee on a two-point conversion attempt; the Dawgs led 26-24 with only seconds remaining. The Vols' final desperation drive was snuffed out by Georgia safety Jermaine Phillips, who recovered a fumble from Tennessee's Corey Larkins.
This victory was a total team effort and the game ball could go to anyone: to McMichael for his clutch catches at the end of the game, to Haynes for hauling in that last pass, to Coach Mark Richt for calling the gutsy P-44 Haynes pass that stuck the final dagger in the Vols, but I have to give it to QB David Greene. Watch the final drive of this game. The kid had ice water in his veins. The redshirt freshman was not only clutch on that final drive, Greene was cool, calm and collected throughout the contest and came up big for the Dawgs on more than one occasion.
This game was an instant Bulldog classic for so many reasons. First, it announced to the SEC (and the nation) the arrival of Coach Richt and that his Dawgs were not going to get pushed around by the heavily-favored Vols, a football juggernaut at the time. Second, this game inspired one of Larry Munson's most unforgettable calls, a call that will be fondly recited across Bulldog Nation for generations. Finally, this win still resonates in Big Orange Country. Just take a gander at Reason #1 on this Vol fan's otherwise uninspired list. This was written in 2011, ten years after P-44 Haynes sucked the life out of Neyland Stadium on that lovely afternoon in early October, 2001.
Matt Stinchcomb (left) with business partner David Greene via www.terry.uga.edu
David Greene received his degree in risk management from UGA's Terry College of Business in 2004 and was a third-round selection of the Seattle Seahawks in the following year's NFL Draft. Things never worked out for Greene in Seattle and after a few years of bouncing around the practice squads of the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts, he decided to put his degree to work. Greene, a Snellville native, retired from the NFL in 2008 and returned home to the Atlanta area in September of that year to join forces with fellow Terry alumnus and Bulldog gridiron great Matt Stinchcomb in opening the Atlanta office of Savannah-based Seacrest Partners, an insurance brokerage and consulting firm.
Greene and Stinchcomb have teamed up with the latter's younger brother, Jon, another former Bulldog football star and one of Greene's roommates for a year at UGA, to host the annual "Countdown to Kickoff" in Athens. Proceeds from this event benefit Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the Georgia Transplant Foundation, the Children's Tumor Foundation and UGA's Pediatric Exercise and Motor Development Clinic.
On a more random note, Greene was recently a contestant on MLB Network's "The Next Knuckler," in which the winner received a chance to attend spring training with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He finished second to former LSU QB Josh Booty.
David Greene and his wife Veronica life in Grayson, GA, with their two young sons and he continues to be an active supporter of UGA athletics and of the program's current quarterback, who has steadily been erasing Greene's name from the Georgia record books since taking over in 2010. Greene serves on the board of directors for the Gwinnett County Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation and spends his free time playing golf and competing on his neighborhood tennis team. He also coaches his son Jordan's T-ball team. Jordan, a lefty like his father, wears #14.
Please join me in raising a paw to David Greene and the 2001 Georgia Bulldogs for delivering an epic performance in a crucial game on October 6, 2001, a game I consider the best ever played against the Tennessee Volunteers.
The UT games in 1968, 1973, 1980 and 2003 are all worthy of a page in the book of all-time great Georgia gridiron victories. What are some of your favorite contests against Tennessee? Where were you when the Vols' noses were broken by that hobnail boot?
At this point, you may be thinking that I am heavily biased toward the 00s. My apologies to those who yearn for something a little more old school, but bear with me. I promise we will set the time machine's dial back a little further as the series moves on. Coach Richt's teams have given us some absolute gems, but by no means do I intend to completely ignore the work of their predecessors.
Next stop: The Missouri Tigers. Georgia has only played them twice (1960 and 2012) and is undefeated. I'm going to have to do either some deep or shallow digging in the archives for this one.