2. 1965: Tennessee beats UCLA 37-34 in Memphis
In a bit of an oddity, this game was not one played at the beginning of the season but instead towards the end of the year. To be fair, this was also a big advantage for Tennessee football. They were playing a “neutral site” game in Memphis against a school from California.
However, this was a neutral site game technically, even if UCLA athletic director JD Morgan said playing a neutral site game against Tennessee in Memphis is like playing against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Rome.
And remember, Memphis is a bit different from the rest of the state in that no place in Tennessee is further away from Knoxville, and that small corner pocket is the one place where the Vols aren’t the unanimous favorite team. Oh, and don’t forget we considered playing Georgia Tech in Atlanta a neutral site game. So yes, we’re considering this a neutral site game. And an epic game it was!
The Vols had gone 4-5-1 the year before, and in Doug Dickey’s second season, they were trying to take that next step. This team was 6-1-2 and headed to the Bluebonnet Bowl with its highlight win over the No. 7 ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The UCLA Bruins, meanwhile, were No. 5 and going to the Rose Bowl after winning the AAWU title (Pac-12 precursor).
So this was set up to be a thriller. And it was just that. At the new Memorial Stadium, which is now called the Liberty Bowl, Tennessee football was led by a surprise quarterback in Dewey Warren. He helped the Vols jump out to a 20-7 lead early.
UCLA came back to make it 28-20 in the third, though, and they appeared to be in control. However, Warren led UT to a 17-6 fourth quarter, and they scored a huge 37-34 win over the Bruins. The victory propelled the Vols back to prominence under Dickey. That’s why it’s significant. They won two SEC titles over the next four years and were a staple on the national stage.