I was born in 1989, which means for much of my childhood it felt like Georgia would never beat Tennessee. The 1995 UGA-UT game, when the undermanned Dawgs lost to #8 Tennessee in Knoxville, was one of the first football games I remember watching all the way through. Georgia missed a late field-goal, that would’ve broken the 27-27 tie, before Peyton Manning drove the Vols down for a field-goal of their own. It was my first Georgia Football heartbreaker, and to this day I think about how that game would have been different if Robert Edwards hadn’t been playing on a sprained ankle. I remember him breaking free down the sideline for a sure touchdown before that ankle gave out on him. I’m honestly not positive if the Dawgs failed to score on that same drive or not, but for years of my childhood I thought about how we would’ve won that game if not for Edwards’ ankle.
There’s no way around it, Tennessee was a powerhouse in the 90’s. This is where I have to admit that, like a lot of young kids growing up in the South in the late-90’s, I liked Peyton Manning. I wanted Georgia to beat him, but I also pretended to be him sometimes when playing football with my friends. I remember watching him slice up my beloved Dawgs as I sat in Sanford Stadium in 1996, but more so my memory is seared with my Dad begrudgingly announcing, “That damn Peyton Manning is good.” That admission was made to a friend back home the next week, and it was the first time I had seen him give such a compliment to a rival player without following it with some sort of dig.
It felt like Jim Donnan’s teams started every year undefeated, and then the first weekend in October came around and Tennessee deflated our balloon. The worst was 1998, when we had climbed to #7 in the polls after a huge upset against LSU in Death Valley at night. I was so excited to go to that game, especially with College Gameday coming to Athens. Georgia came out looking lost, and managed just a field-goal in an awful 22-3 loss to the Vols.
When we beat them in 2000 I remember feeling pure uninhibited joy. I was there as the students began to slowly creep over the hedges. It felt like the Berlin Wall was falling. The moment felt so momentous that I saved the Athens Banner-Herald from the next morning and took it back to Wilmington, NC with me. It stayed taped to my closet door for years, and is still in a drawer somewhere in my childhood home. I still remember the cover- Quincy Carter and Terrance Edwards are holding hands and leaning backwards, spinning around like two little kids. Looking back on the footage of that night now is surreal. (Skip to the 2:02:04 mark in the video below to see when the students really started coming onto the field.) I forgot that they tried to tear the goalposts down with 1:26 to go and the ball in Tennessee’s possession. What a night that was. (Unrelated side note- This video reminded me that I really miss Ron Franklin, Mike Gottfried and Adrian Karsten calling Saturday Night SEC Football games.)
I wrote quite a bit about the emotions I experienced during the Hobnail Boot game in 2001 in my first article for this website. I bring up all this history to drive home the fact that beating Tennessee used to be a big deal. I hated them throughout my childhood, but I was forced to respect their program.
Those feelings of respect were before I had ever interacted with Tennessee fans..,
My first trip to Neyland Stadium was in 2005. Georgia had dominated for most of the game, but only lead 13-0 when D.J. Shockley threw an interception that Tennessee ran back to the one-yard line late in the third quarter. The Vols punched it in, and the Volunteer fans started to show their true colors. The cross-eyed UT fan the row behind us bent down and screamed into my face, spewing saliva on me in the process. He suffered from a form of delusion that many Tennessee fans still do to this very day, and was convinced from past experience that things were turning Tennessee’s way. I could go through all the other obscenities that were shouted at my Dad and I that day, but we don’t like to print those kind of words here. Just know that I’ve been to the majority of SEC stadiums, and it was the only time I’ve ever been afraid for my physical safety at a football game. Fortunately, Thomas Flowers shut most of them up when he broke the game open with a punt return touchdown in the fourth quarter. Predictably, cups filled with liquid rained down on us from the Tennessee fans above.
As I alluded to in the last paragraph, Tennessee fans have a disease of the mind that tells them their program belongs in the national title hunt every fall. They also believe that the position of head coach at the University of Tennessee is one of the very top jobs in college football. The reality is that Tennessee is a state that produces very little division-1 football players in comparison to Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. It requires recruiting from a national base, and for that reason it is not an easy or overly desirable job.
Despite the clear evidence, Tennessee fans can’t process this reality. The Volunteers ended up with Derek Dooley in 2010, a man who wasn’t even on the extensive list of candidates put out when the job came open. After he failed, they were turned down by Jon Gruden, Mike Gundy, Larry Fedora and Charlie Strong, ending up with Butch Jones. After Jones was fired, Tennessee ran what was quite possibly the most chaotic and least successful coaching search in major college football history, ending up with Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt may or may not have been hired to fail so Phil Fulmer can steal the job for a second time. Throughout all this dysfunction, TENNESSEE FANS INSISTED FOR A DECADE THAT JON GRUDEN WAS COMING TO UNCLOG THEIR BACKED UP TOILET OF A PROGRAM.
That level of arrogance and irrational confidence is both stunning and annoying. The ultimate irony here is that Tennessee fans have killed their own program themselves. The fanbase’s inability to realize that their previous success happened when lightning found its way into a bottle, and 18-year-old kids who happened to be good athletes thought Tennessee was cool for a few years there in the 90’s, is what is killing it. Spray butter, JNCO jeans and turtlenecks were hot then too, but we got smarter as a society and realized those things are just as awful as Tennessee’s hideous orange, and we collectively pitched them in the trash. Tennessee’s unrealistic expectations is what keeps good coaches from coming, and stops the bad coaches they hire from having enough time to put together a healthy roster that a better coach can come in and coach to consistent success. A nationally competitive Tennessee is a vestige of a bygone era in the same way that Tom Osborne’s Nebraska is. This I don’t hate, because it’s hilarious. Simply put, Tennessee fans are dumb.
Despite the humor they collectively provide, I have come to hate Tennessee for two reasons in this modern era. You’re probably curious as to why, because I’m obviously not mad at them for having a good football program.
The first, I absolutely despise Tennessee fans’ pattern of getting on Twitter and responding to every piece of positive Georgia Football news with “1980.” Yeah dude, we get it, Georgia last won a national championship in 1980. The problem is that they type this with a total lack of irony, and apparently don’t realize that few current college football players, and zero current high-school recruits were alive when they last won a national title in 1998. They also choose to ignore the following numbers...
- 1998 - the last time Tennessee won an SEC Championship
- 2007 - the last time Tennessee won a Eastern Division title
- 4 - the number of Tennessee head coaches in the last decade
- 62-73 - their record since the start of the 2008 season
- 41-0 - score of the 2017 UGA-UT game in Knoxville (my personal favorite)
The second reason is these signs. and the moment I saw the I knew I would forever hate Tennessee with the fire of a million suns...
Tennessee frats are going after Nick Chubb. Bold strategy, Cotton pic.twitter.com/XQwBi1aed1— Wes Blankenship (@Wes_nship) September 28, 2017
A Tennessee fan tweeted me this week to say that the #DawgsCheckerNeyland movement that’s underway on Twitter is “classless.” No. Making fun of an injured 19 year-old kid is classless.
I want to see red and black squares on my televisions Saturday Night. I want to beat Tennessee into smithereens, even though beating Tennessee isn’t a big deal anymore. I want Georgia to get up big and stay on the gas...
I hate Tennessee.