Tennessee and Georgia met for the first time back in 1999, a 5-0 win by the Vols in Knoxville. When the two teams meet in Knoxville this weekend, it will mark the 47th time they have squared off. Tennessee holds a 23-21 lead in the series. There have been two ties.
Here are the Vols’ five greatest wins over Georgia, of the modern era:
5.) 1995: Tennessee 30, Georgia 27
Tennessee’s SEC opener in 1995 saw sophomore quarterback Peyton Manning and the Vols roll in with a No. 8 national ranking, fresh off a 27-7 win over East Carolina to open the season. The Bulldogs, led by quarterback Mike Bobo, were unranked, despite beating South Carolina 42-23 the week before. Kirby Smart, the Bulldogs’ current head coach, was a player in that game. Smart, a freshman, had recorded three sacks in Georgia’s win over the Gamecocks.
Although Tennessee was a decided favorite to win the game, it turned out to be a seesaw battle. Georgia’s Robert Edwards nearly single-handedly led the Bulldogs to an upset. Edwards had 155 yards on just 15 carries when he exited the game in the third quarter after reaggravating a sprained ankle.
The two teams traded the lead throughout the night, but disaster appeared to strike the Vols late. Manning threw an interception in his own territory. It was one of just four picks thrown by Manning all season, but it gave Georgia possession at the Vols’ 35-yard-line in a 27-27 game with 2:25 to play.
But when Tennessee’s defense held, Georgia was forced to attempt a 52-yard field goal attempt, which was wide right with 1:29 to play.
From there, Manning took over. He first hit Jay Graham for a 28-yard swing pass, then connected with Joey Kent, and Tennessee was within field goal range. Graham busted through the middle for 10 yards on a third-and-three, and then Manning kept the ball to position it in the middle of the field, setting up a 34-yard field goal attempt for freshman kicker Jeff Hall.
Hall made the kick with 10 seconds to play, allowing the Vols to escape with a 30-27 win.
4.) 1992: Tennessee 34, Georgia 31
The 1992 season was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Tennessee. Gone was Andy Kelly and much of the rest of offensive talent that had led the Vols to such a successful three-year stretch from 1989 to 1991. No. 24 Tennessee, led by sophomore quarterback Heath Shuler, traveled to Athens to face No. 14 Georgia in a game just about everyone expected the Bulldogs to win. Vols coach Johnny Majors was sidelined by heart surgery, and offensive coordinator Phillip Fulmer was serving as the interim head coach.
Tennessee was coming off an insignificant tune-up win over Southwest Louisiana, 38-3, while Georgia was coming off a 28-6 win over South Carolina.
When Georgia fumbled the opening kickoff, it was a foreshadowing that something special was in the works for the Vols on that day Between the Hedges. Tennessee only got a field goal out of it, but Tennessee proved it was up to the challenge presented by the heavily favored Bulldogs.
The two teams traded leads throughout the game, before Tennessee scored in the third quarter to take a 20-17 lead, then scored again in the fourth quarter on a Shuler run — which followed a 40-yard scramble by Shuler on third down — to push the lead to 27-17.
The Vols’ lead was the largest of the day by either team, but Georgia would battle back. Garrison Hearst scored on a 60-yard run to pull the Bulldogs close, then scored again on a 17-yard run to give Georgia 31-27 lead with just over 5:00 remaining.
When Shuler was sacked and then threw an incomplete pass, Tennessee found itself facing a 4th and 14 at Georgia’s 40-yard-line with 2:15 to play. But Shuler found Ronald Davis open for a 25-yard completion, completed another pass to JJ McClesky to push the Vols close, and finally scored on a quarterback keeper from the four-yard-line.
With still 50 seconds remaining, the game was not over. Georgia completed an 18-yard pass, then found Andre Hastings, who broke a tackle and burst into the open field. But Tennessee caught up with him from behind, knocking the ball free at the Vols’ 35-yard-line. It was Georgia’s sixth turnover of the day, allowing Tennessee to escape with an improbable victory.
3.) 2009 – Tennessee 45, Georgia 19
The short-lived Lane Kiffin era at Tennessee began with a promising 63-7 win over Western Kentucky. But things were rocky after that, as UCLA came to Neyland Stadium and escaped with a 19-15 win. The Vols struggled to beat Ohio, sandwiched between losses to Florida and Auburn. Tennessee was 2-3 as a favored Georgia team came to Neyland Stadium on Oct. 10.
The Bulldogs were 3-2 overall, fresh off a narrow loss to No. 4 LSU, which had knocked them from the polls. In fact, that 2009 meeting marked the first Tennessee-Georgia game since 1989 with neither team in the Top 25.
Kiffin told his team before the game that Georgia was a more important rivalry for the Vols than either Florida or Alabama, because of the Peach State’s recruiting importance. He also promised that Tennessee would never lose to Georgia as long as he was the head coach in Knoxville.
The Vols came out throwing, with Jonathan Crompton hitting on a couple of passes to quickly move his team into Georgia territory. The drive ended without points, but it was a sign of things to come for Crompton, who completed 20 of 27 passes for a career-high 310 yards and four touchdowns.
Tennessee led 21-12 at halftime, then took control in the third quarter. An unforgettable scene played out near the end of the quarter. With 59 seconds remaining, Tennessee scored on a 52-yard pass from Crompton to Denarius Moore to take a 38-19 lead. As the crowd of 103,000 roared its approval, Tennessee’s entire team gathered in celebration on the Vols’ sideline.
While Crompton’s big day was the top story, Tennessee’s defense was just as good, never allowing Georgia’s offense to reach the red zone.
2.) 2006 – Tennessee 51, Georgia 33
No. 14 Tennessee entered the 2006 game in Athens with a 4-1 record, having blasted a favored Cal team in the opener but having suffered a heartbreaking loss to Florida.
Georgia entered with an unbeaten 5-0 record and was ranked No. 9 in the country, fresh off a win over Ole Miss.
The Bulldogs appeared poised to run the Vols out of the stadium to start, jumping to a 24-7 first half lead.
But then Tennessee took charge. The Vols scored just before the end of the half to cut the lead to 24-14, then finally took the lead in the second half.
As the fourth quarter began, Tennessee scored to take a 31-27 lead, then Antonio Wardlow blocked a Georgia punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown, pushing the lead to 38-27 and the rout was on.
Georgia entered the game with the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense. But the Bulldogs’ ranking fell all the way to No. 17 after the Tennessee game.
1.) 2016 – Tennessee 34, Georgia 31
Did you really expect anything else? No. 11 Tennessee entered the 2016 game in Athens with an undefeated record. No. 25 Georgia was 3-1, having been drilled by Ole Miss the previous week, 45-14.
The Vols were a decided favorite, but Georgia led most of the day. The Bulldogs jumped to a 17-0 lead in the first half before Tennessee found its sea legs.
Georgia was still up 24-21 late in the fourth quarter, but a sack-fumble by Tennessee resulted in a Vols touchdown after Corey Vereen fell on the loose ball for a score.
But the Bulldogs weren’t done. Down 28-24, Georgia marched back down the field, scoring on a 47-yard pass with just seconds remaining.
The last hurrah belonged to Josh Dobbs and Tennessee, however. Dobbs connected with Jauan Jennings on a 43-yard Hail Mary as time expired, giving the Vols a thrilling 34-31 win.