5 moments that defined Tennessee’s season
It was a season of twists and turns for Tennessee’s football team. There were blown leads, an astonishing comeback and a potentially historic upset that didn’t quite happen.
Here are the plays that made the 2015 season unforgettable:
Maggitt Down Again
Curt Maggitt was the feel-good story of the 2014 season while playing defensive end and linebacker. After sitting out 2013 with a knee injury, Maggitt became known as a team leader while posting 11 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss.
The 2015 season wasn’t quite so kind.
Maggitt went down with a hip injury in the first half against Oklahoma (Week 2) and was out for the remainder of the regular season. Tennessee’s defense lost a great deal of production and, more importantly, a great leader when he went down. The Vols lost to Oklahoma and struggled in pressure situations on defense for weeks.
Tennessee had Oklahoma reeling in the second game of the season. The Vols led, 17-3, and were on the verge of one of their biggest upsets in recent memory. Then a Heisman candidate made a play that turned the tide, and a monstrous mistake was made by a walk-on.
Instead of being sacked, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield avoided five Vols in the backfield on a third-and-8 before throwing an incomplete pass on its own 34-yard line. The incomplete pass would have been fine. However, linebacker Colton Jumper was called for a holding penalty that gave Oklahoma a first down. The Sooners went on to score on that drive and win the game, 31-24, in double overtime.
Curl and Go
Despite allowing a 13-point lead to dwindle to six, Tennessee was still in position to beat the Gators for the first time in 10 years. All the Vols had to do was stop Florida on a fourth-and-14 attempt. That did not happen.
Florida receiver Antonio Callaway caught a pass after a short curl route, then sprinted up the sideline for a 63-yard touchdown thanks to a block by fellow receiver Brandon Powell. That gave Florida a 28-27 win and made it 11 straight against the Vols.
As things played out, that was the play that kept Tennessee from beating Florida and, subsequently, out of the SEC Championship game. Florida ended up winning the Eastern division, Tennessee finished second.
Fourth and Pearson
Tennessee’s season was going south in a hurry before a sliding catch changed the Vols’ fortunes.
The Vols were facing a fourth-and-4 late in the second quarter. Junior quarterback Joshua Dobbs was so inconsistent that CBS commentator Gary Danielson wondered aloud if he might be replaced by freshman Quinten Dormady. Then, fate stepped in. Dobbs underthrew a pass to senior receiver Von Pearson, who just happened to slip. Pearson’s misfortune made the pass more catchable.
That reception helped secure momentum for the Vols. Tennessee beat UGA, 38-31. The Vols went on to win five of its next six games.
Tennessee was on the verge of one of its most memorable upsets when it trailed Alabama, 19-14. The Vols stood toe-to-toe with the Crimson Tide, yet needed one more scoring drive late in the fourth quarter.
The crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium couldn’t breathe easy until defensive end Ryan Anderson beat freshman offensive tackle Chance Hall on a speed rush to sack Dobbs and force a fumble. Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson recovered the loose ball and ‘Bama was able to run out the clock.
It was a heartbreaking moment for the Vols, and Hall, in particular. Despite playing well in his first collegiate start, Hall was reportedly distraught after the game. However, the Vols seemed to regroup after the loss and finished the season with five consecutive victories.