KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Josh Dobbs is coming off one of the greatest performances by a Tennessee quarterback in the program’s history, accounting for 399 yards and five touchdowns in the biggest second-half comeback Neyland Stadium has seen.
Dobbs was 16-of-32 passing but what the stat sheet doesn’t show is that there were six dropped passes in the first half, Dobbs dodged sacks at least a half a dozen times, and on three of his four TD throws he took a shot.
Not all the Heisman Trophy voters were watching, but those who did pay attention surely have circled Dobbs’ name among the dark horse candidates heading into October.
Individual awards, of course, are the furthest thing from Dobbs’ mind as he leads No 11-ranked Tennessee (4-0, 1-0 SEC) to No. 25 Georgia (3-1, 1-1) for a pivotal SEC East Division clash between the famed Hedges.
Dobbs grew up 63 miles away from the University of Georgia in Alpharetta, but the only SEC Bulldogs to offer him a scholarship were those from Mississippi State.
“In my class they had a quarterback commit my sophomore year in high school, so they were off the radar, and I hadn’t even played quarterback at the varsity level,” Dobbs said. “My whole school was Georgia fans, I was kind of the outlier, I never had one specific team, I was a fan of the SEC.
“But yeah, you go back to your home state, it will be cool, it will be different, it will be weird.”
Georgia fans probably look back and think it’s weird that former Bulldogs QB coach Mike Bobo — now at Colorado State — chose to offer Brice Ramsey the scholarship instead of Dobbs or Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, who hails from Gainesville, Ga
Ramsey is currently Georgia’s third-team QB and backup punter, part of a 2013 signing group that has 14 players remaining from a 33-member class.
For Dobbs, though, it’s never personal.
“I wouldn’t say there’s any extra incentive,” Dobbs said, “But we definitely expect a dog fight coming into this weekend.”
Dobbs certainly gave the Bulldogs more than they could handle last year at Neyland Stadium, leading a 38-31 victory after the Vols had rallied from 24-3 down to 24-17 by halftime en route to the win.
Dobbs was 25-of-42 passing for 312 yards with three touchdowns and an interception along with 118 yards and two touchdowns rushing on 18 carries.
The Tennessee quarterback admits, it was comparable to his performance last Saturday against Florida.
“They were very similar games, eerily similar,” Dobbs said. “It felt exactly the same, just the way that whole game evolved, where we were driving the ball not finishing in the red zone, doing uncharacteristic things and not executing.”
Vols coach Butch Jones ranked Dobbs’ performance among the best.
“This was probably the grittiest game Josh Dobbs has played in his career,” Jones said of the 38-28 win over the Gators. “On most of this touchdown passes he stood in the pocket and took a hit.
“I thought he grew up as a quarterback in terms of throwing the football.”
The Vols’ schedule ranks among the top 20 in the nation and it will only get tougher these next three weeks.
If Dobbs can somehow keep Tennessee unbeaten, his name will surely appear with the leaders in the Heisman Trophy race.
Here’s a look at how he compares with some candidates at this point of the year:
Louisville’s Lamar Jackson
1,330 yards passing, 13 TD, 3 Int, 58.7% completion
526 yards rushing, 12 TD, 8.6 yards per carry
Sagarin schedule strength: 65th
Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett
650 yards passing, 10 TD, 1 Int, 67.1% completion
159 yards rushing, 3 TD, 4.1 yards per carry
Sagarin schedule strength: 52nd
Houston’s Greg Ward Jr.
936 yards passing, 5 TD, 2 Int, 65.7% completion
113 yards rushing 3 TD, 2.2 yards per carry
Sagarin schedule strength: 97th
*Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs
805 yards passing, 10 TD, 5 Int, 57% completion
241 yards rushing, 4 TD, 4.5 yards per carry
Sagarin schedule strength: 19th
*Clemson’s DeShaun Watson
996 yards passing, 9 TD, 4 Int, 60% completion
120 yards rushing, 0 TD, 3.4 yards per carry
Sagarin schedule strength: 27th
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) September 27, 2016