ATHENS, Ga. — The play is called a “Hail Mary,” but there was more than a prayer involved when Josh Dobbs heaved the ball high into the air in the direction of Jauan Jennings in the end zone.
“We called timeout to see how they were aligned,” said Tennessee coach Butch Jones, who improved to 5-0 this season (2-0 in the SEC) with Saturday’s 34-31 win at Georgia. “Coach (Zach) Azzanni shuffled the lineup on the trips (three-receiver) side.
“Those are the things that people don’t realize, but Coach Z put them in position to make a play. So did Josh Dobbs. Jauan came down with it.”
The No. 11-ranked Vols have come from double digits down in four of their five wins this season, and on Saturday they trailed No. 25 Georgia 17-0 in the first half and 24-14 entering the fourth quarter.
But it was the Bulldogs, in fact, who appeared to have stolen the comeback thunder when freshman quarterback Jacob Eason hit Riley Ridley with a 47-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left to put Georgia up 31-28.
Jones said Tennessee used a special kick return to get in position to throw the Hail Mary, and Evan Berry made the most of it, taking a short kick 20 yards to the Bulldogs’ 43-yard line on the game’s penultimate play.
“That’s a kickoff return that we put in at the end of the game,” Jones said. “We’ve had it for three years and never used it. Give them credit. We rep it every Thursday and we were able to get it, and it put us in midfield or in range where you can get a Hail Mary.
“I told our kids in the huddle, ‘We’re going to come down with it. We’re going to find a way.’ ”
Tennessee has won 11 games in a row dating to last season, and Saturday’s win snapped a 23-game road losing streak against ranked opponents that dated to a 2006 win at Georgia.
The Vols play at No. 9-ranked Texas A&M (5-0, 3-0 SEC) at 3:30 p.m. ET next Saturday (TV: CBS).
“There’s something about this team,” Jones said. “They’re resilient. They understand. You don’t win a game like that unless you have character, and I continue to say that.”