ATHENS, Ga. — Jauan Jennings hauled in a 43-yard Hail Mary from Joshua Dobbs on the final play, giving No. 11 Tennessee a stunning 34-31 victory over No. 25 Georgia after the Bulldogs appeared to win the game on a long TD pass of their own with 10 seconds remaining Saturday.
The Vols (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) rallied from a double-digit deficit for the fourth time in five games, but this was their most improbable comeback yet. The SEC East rivals packed a whole game’s worth of action into the closing minutes as Tennessee went ahead for the first time all afternoon by recovering a fumble by Georgia (3-2, 1-2) in the end zone with 2:56 to go.
Then, after the Bulldogs threw an interception but got the ball back one more time, Jacob Eason tossed a 47-yard touchdown pass to fellow freshman Riley Ridley. With the Sanford Stadium crowd in a frenzy, Tennessee took the kickoff into position to take one shot at the end zone.
Dobbs hurled a towering pass that the 6-foot-3 Jennings didn’t really have that much trouble bringing down . He leaped above the scrum to make the catch, and then landed on his back for the score that sent the Tennessee bench charging on the field to celebrate.
“I just know to go get it,” Jennings said. “I just grabbed the ball and brought it in.”
Georgia built a 17-0 lead in the first half but was clinging to a 24-21 edge when it got the ball deep in its own territory late in the fourth quarter.
Risking a pass from his own end zone, Eason tried to pull the ball down and was crushed by two Tennessee defenders, Derek Barnett and Cortez McDowell. The ball came loose and Corey Vereen fell on it for a touchdown.
Turns out, these teams were just getting warmed up.
Eason had another turnover, this one an interception by Malik Foreman. But Georgia used a couple of its timeouts, held defensively and got the ball back again. This time, the young quarterback came through, quickly driving the Bulldogs past midfield. After their final timeout, Eason found Ridley streaking behind two defenders down the left sideline, delivering a pass that the young receiver took in stride, seemingly giving Georgia an improbable win.
Not so fast.
An excessive celebration penalty forced the Bulldogs to kick off from their own 20, and Evan Berry’s 20-yard return got the Vols in range to throw one up. When Jennings brought it down, Tennessee coach Butch Davis sank to his knees, overcome with emotion, while Vols running back Alvin Kamara sprawled out on his back, seemingly in disbelief.
“It was a crazy play, stuff you dream about,” Dobbs said.
Tennessee: The Vols have shown remarkable resilience while gaining a commanding position in the SEC East. They keep getting off to sluggish starts, but keep finding ways to win. Now, they have victories over both Florida and Georgia, likely to be their two leading challengers in the division race. That not only puts Tennessee ahead in the standings, but provides a tiebreaker edge that could come in handy by the end of the season.
Georgia: The Bulldogs have now lost two in a row in the SEC, a huge blow to their hopes of contending for a division championship in Kirby Smart’s first season as coach. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back from such a devastating loss.
Tennessee could move back into the Top 10, while Georgia is sure to tumble out of the rankings for the first time this season when The Associated Press poll comes out Sunday. The Bulldogs barely hung on to the final spot after their big loss at Ole Miss.
Tennessee: The Vols are facing their third straight game against a ranked opponent, and another tough one on the road, when they travel to College Station to take on No. 9 Texas A&M (5-0). It doesn’t get any easier after that, either. No. 1 Alabama visits Neyland Stadium on Oct. 15, finishing off the toughest part of Tennessee’s schedule.
Georgia: The Bulldogs hit the road to face another SEC East rival, South Carolina.
AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org