ATHENS, Ga. — Tennessee’s miraculous run of comeback victories continued Saturday when Josh Dobbs hit Jauan Jennings with a 43-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the game for a 34-31 victory.
It’s the fourth time in five games this season that UT has rallied from double digits down to win.
The No. 11-ranked Vols (5-0, 2-0 SEC) took their first lead at 28-24 lead with 2:56 left. Defensive end Corey Vereen recovered Jacob Eason’s fumble in the end zone after the pocket collapsed around the freshman quarterback.
Eason (17-of-28, 211, 2 TDs, 1 interception) appeared to redeem himself when he connected with Riley Ridley on a 47-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left to put the No. 25-ranked Bulldogs (3-2, 1-2) back out front.
The Vols snapped a string of 23 straight road losses to ranked opponents on the road that dated to a win at Georgia in 2006. It’s also the first time UT won back-to-back games against Top 25 teams since 2007.
Georgia went up 24-14 when freshman tight end Isaac Nauta got loose in the Tennessee secondary and rumbled 50 yards on a touchdown pass from Jacob Eason with 4:07 left in the third quarter.
The Vols stayed close on Alvin Kamara’s 16-yard TD reception from Dobbs on the first play of the fourth quarter, cutting the Georgia lead to 24-21.
Dobbs (16-of-26, 230 yards, 3 TDs, one interception) carried the Vols offense much of the day, helping to overcome two early lost fumbles by Kamara and Jalen Hard.
It was Dobbs’ 4-yard TD run late in the first half that gave Tennessee much-needed life heading into the halftime locker room, cutting the Georgia lead to 17-7.
The Vols QB actually ran about 25 yards on the play, scrambling one way before reversing his field and launching himself at the pylon as two Bulldog defenders knocked him into the Georgia marching band.
Dobbs had kept the drive alive three plays earlier when he ran for 16 yards on third-and-14 at the Bulldogs’ 24, breaking three tackles along the way.
Four things learned
• Tennessee has resilience. People can and will have a lot to say about different areas of execution, but at the end of the day, the Vols came through in the clutch.
• The Vols have a real issue with intensity at the start of games, even after identifying it as a problem. Tennessee has been outscored 41-10 in the first quarter of games and 77-51 in first halves.
• Tennessee’s fumbling problems finally came around to bite the Vols in the first half. Georgia converted Kamara’s fumble into a field goal, and Hurd’s fumble into the end zone effectively took seven points off the board at a crucial juncture. The Vols had fumbled 12 times entering the game but only had lost one.
• The Vols offense largely comes down to Dobbs making key plays with his legs, try as they might to develop the passing game. Three dropped passes in the first half didn’t help in that department.
• Vereen tipped Eason’s fourth-and-2 pass attempt for Nauta at the Tennessee 25 with Emmanuel Moseley in tight coverage, giving UT the ball trailing 24-21 with 9:02 left in the fourth quarter.
• Dobbs has proven he’s capable of carrying the Tennessee offense.
• Can the Vols solve their fumbling issues? They have 14 fumbles this season, and they’ve lost three — including both on Saturday.
• Tennessee’s defense will sleep well tonight — it was on the field for 36:07 while the Vols offense only controlled the ball for 23:53.
What it means
• Tennessee is in control of the SEC East Division heading to Texas A&M next Saturday.