2. Nov. 1, 1997
No. 14 Georgia Bulldogs vs. No. 6 Florida Gators
Final score: Georgia wins 37-17
Because of their head-to-head tiebreaker over Tennessee football, the Florida Gators would still have to lose another game for the Vols to win the SEC East in Peyton Manning’s senior year. They remained focused, dominating the Alabama Crimson Tide 38-21 with their newfound momentum the week after beating Georgia.
However, Florida gave them a gut-punch by dominating the Auburn Tigers that day 24-10 despite Auburn being ranked higher and playing at home. Both teams were heading into byes after that, and the Georgia Bulldogs would likely be UT’s last chance at a Florida upset loss, as their final two SEC games were against the South Carolina Gamecocks and Vanderbilt Commodores.
On Nov. 1, UT faced South Carolina at 12:30 p.m. that day. Florida would face Georgia at 3:30 p.m. The problem was that Steve Spurrier had not yet lost to UGA, whose last win against the Gators was 1989. Those distractions resulted in the Vols playing ugly all game. However, they held off South Carolina to win 22-7.
As they were holding off S.C., Florida-Georgia was getting started. And Jim Donnan threw out all the stops, using Robert Edwards in almost all of them. Edwards gave the Dawgs a shocking 14-3 lead at halftime with two touchdowns.
In the second half, however, Spurrier replaced Doug Johnson with Noah Brindise, and Brindise lead UF back to take a 17-14 lead. By this point, Vols fans were watching, and everybody likely believed UGA would choke again. But on this miracle day, Edwards, Donnan and the Dawgs would not quit.
Donnan used his tricks with Hines Ward, who could play quarterback and receiver, to get UGA down the field again along with Mike Bobo, and Edwards got his third touchdown at the end of that drive to give them a 21-17 lead. The defense then clamped down again, and the Dawgs went up 24-17 in the fourth quarter.
Shocking all UT fans, the defense came through again, and after getting the ball back, Edwards had a 37-yard touchdown run. All of a sudden, UGA was up 30-17 with less than seven minutes to go, and Tennessee football fans could taste the SEC East title. Georgia made that certain with another late touchdown to win 37-17.
It was a dominating game with the exception of that quarterback switch that gave Florida early second-half life. And the Vols cashed in. They won out, despite ugly games against the Arkansas Razorbacks and Vanderbilt Commodores, and captured their first SEC Championship win with a memorable comeback to beat the Auburn Tigers 30-29. None of that happens without this game.