KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee coordinators Mike DeBord, Bob Shoop and Larry Scott share the coaching booth at the press box level on Saturdays, and that meant sharing a historical moment at Georgia.
None of the coaches could remember a moment in their careers when their team won on a Hail Mary pass comparable to the one that Josh Dobbs completed to Jauan Jennings from the Bulldogs’ 43-yard line as time expired, lifting the No. 9-ranked Vols to the 34-31 victory.
“But I was at Michigan when Colorado had the Hail Mary against us,” DeBord said, referring to Kordell Stewart’s 64-yard bomb to beat the Wolverines in 1994. “So I liked being on our side of it. That’s a lot more fun.”
Tennessee was on both sides of it against Georgia, having watched Jacob Eason complete a 47-yard strike to Riley Ridley with 10 seconds left to put the Bulldogs up 31-28 and send Sanford Stadium into a frenzy.
“We were in a two-deep man under … and (earlier in the game) they ran the exact same play, against the exact same front and the exact same coverage and we covered it, and the quarterback scrambled for a first down,” Shoop said. “On that play, he did the exact same scramble, but instead of running, he decided to launch it, and he made a really tremendous throw, I thought, and put it into a fairly tight window.
“Hindsight is 20-20, and maybe had I known he would throw that ball in that situation, I might have been in a different coverage. I figured we’d play two-man (deep zones) one more snap, and then get into a victory-type (prevent) concept with 10 or less seconds left.”
Shoop said once Georgia scored on its long pass, his mind sped ahead to a potential extra-point block and return for a score, which would have been worth two points and tied the game at 30-30.
Even when the Bulldogs kicked the extra-point through the uprights, taking a 31-28 lead, Shoop said he had not given up hope.
“All the sudden Evan Berry makes a great play on the kickoff return and brings it back (to the Georgia 48), and we have four seconds left,” Shoop said. “And any time you have Josh Dobbs and Jauan Jennings and Josh Malone, you have a chance.
“So it went from a ‘Ok, how are we going to get the guys back into this thing,’ to a ‘hey, what a great win for the guys.’ “
DeBord’s side of the coaching booth was more emotional.
“I jumped up and Coach Scott about tried to tackle me, but I didn’t go down, so I’m a pretty tough runner,” DeBord said. “Heck ya, you get excited the game is over. When the game hits zero, I’m all in, emotionally and everything else.
“I really try to stay even keel all the way through the game until it hits zero, and when it hits zero I let it go.”
Follow Tennessee beat writer Mike Griffith on Twitter for more Vols’ news and analysis.