Wake Forest Demon Deacons at No. 16 Tennessee Volunteers
Final score: Tennessee wins 31-29
We’re back to another Tennessee football win over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. And this one has numerous connections to 1970. For starters, the Vols had not had a top five finish since that 1970 season, and they would go on to do that this year.
On top of that, after the Moral Majority had gripped the nation, this would be the last year that Wake Forest was affiliated with the North Carolina State Baptist Convention. The two severed ties the following offseason. So it was Wake’s final year, but they still count as a religious school because of what they were at this time.
UT had fallen on hard times in the mid-1970s, but this year, Johnny Majors’s ninth on the job, they looked to be back. They tied the No. 10 ranked UCLA Bruins to open the season and then beat the No. 1 ranked Auburn Tigers. This was their first game ranked in the top 25 since 1979. And they were looking for their first win while ranked in the top 25 since 1975.
Wake, 3-1 at the time, did not make it easy. They gained 455 yards of offense and held Tennessee football to just 309 yards. Still, the Vols had built a 31-14 lead behind Tony Robinson. The Demon Deacons fought back, though, scoring two touchdowns with six minutes to go and cutting it to 31-29. The Vols managed to hold on for the win.
Getting their first victory as a top 25 team was the confidence they needed going forward. They did lose a heartbreaker to the Florida Gators the next game, but they wouldn’t lose again all season en route to their first SEC title since 1969, their first top five finish since 1970 and a major upset Sugar Bowl win over the Miami Hurricanes.