8. Georgia Bulldogs (No. 8)
Year: 2003 (Home)
Final score: No. 13 Tennessee Volunteers lose 41-14
Tennessee football did not begin playing the Georgia Bulldogs on a yearly basis until 1992, and there have been plenty of heartbreaking losses since then. A common one to put at the top would be the 2001 season, in which the hobnail boot game occurred.
However, that game was irrelevant in the scope of the season, as the Vols made it to No. 2 anyway and ruined the year because of another bad loss. So it’s irrelevance forced us to pick another game, and it’s the other game that was played in Neyland Stadium featuring Casey Clausen and Phillip Fulmer vs. Mark Richt and David Greene.
We’re obviously talking about the 2003 game. This was more heartbreaking on the embarrassing front because it was a blowout. How it got to that and the impact it had on the season made things worse.
Leading into it, the Vols were 4-1. But they had just lost to the Auburn Tigers, so to win the SEC East after beating the Florida Gators early, they would need to beat the one-loss Dawgs. At the time, they hadn’t beaten UGA since 1999. Also, Clausen missed the 2002 game against Georgia due to injury and said that’s why the Vols lost. So he had a lot to prove.
The first half was a defensive struggle. Georgia jumped out to a 10-0 lead while the Vols had a touchdown called back due to holding. Clausen did have a 90-yard touchdown pass to Mark Jones, though, and UGA was up 13-7 late. Then, the Vols were driving at the end of the half. They got inside the Georgia two-yard line.
A touchdown would be a huge momentum swing with seconds left, as it would put UT up 14-13 at halftime with them getting the ball to start the second. However, a field goal would also be fine. Neither of those happened, though. Instead, Clausen and Troy Fleming had a miscommunication on a running play causing a fumble. Sean Jones picked it up and ran it 99 yards the other way.
In the greatest momentum swing in history, Tennessee football went from either being down 13-10 or up 14-13 to start the second half with the ball to being down 20-7. They never recovered, and UGA piled it on in the second to go up at one point 41-7. It was the first time since their 42-17 loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers with Peyton Manning that the Vols had given up over 40 points.
On top of the momentum swing and the embarrassment, it’s also the game that ruined the Vols’ SEC East chances and a chance to play for the national title Clausen’s senior year. So yes, it’s UT’s worst loss to Georgia.