4. 2017: Tennessee beats Georgia Tech 42-41 in Atlanta (OT)
Five years after Derek Dooley’s Vols opened the season by winning the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic, Butch Jones did the same thing. As we know, he also got fired at the end of this season, so if you’re Tennessee football’s head coach, you clearly don’t want to open the year by winning a game in Atlanta.
Maybe that’s the new version of the Atlanta curse. Anyway, just like Dooley’s team’s win, this was a very exciting win for the time. Many people may not have considered this a neutral site game since the Vols were facing the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Atlanta. But the tickets were split evenly. On top of that, they were considered the home team.
As a result, we’re calling this a neutral site game. Anyway. the Vols had trouble all day stopping Paul Johnson’s triple-option scheme. Even with a new quarterback, Georgia Tech ran it flawlessly and torched their defense.
Adding to the trouble, Jauan Jennings went down early with a season-ending injury. With a new quarterback in Quinten Dormady starting to replace Joshua Dobbs, this all could have been way too much. However, it wasn’t.
Dormady and his offense with Marquez Callaway and John Kelly rallied in the second half. The trio gave hints of Troy Aikman to Micheal Irving with Emmitt Smith at running back. It was that exciting in the second half. And thanks to an opportunistic defense that created two turnovers and blocked a late field goal, the Vols were able to come back after being down two touchdowns to tie things up at 28 and send the game into overtime.
The game went to two overtimes, and the teams traded touchdowns each period. But in the second overtime, GT went for two on the final play to get the win. Darrell Taylor made an amazing stop by reading the play, and Tennessee football won a game it had no business winning, 42-41.
At the time, Vols fans were ecstatic. The future looked really bright with Dormady at the helm. But injuries Jones’s incompetence got the best of the Vols. They suffered through the worst season in school history after that first win, and it’s why Rocky Top is now in the Jeremy Pruitt era.