Oct. 3, 2013
Each Thursday, Brian Rice will take a look back at the Lowe's #DefiningMoments. A young 2004 Tennessee team went down to Georgia and defeated the odds - and the Bulldogs - to continue a magical season.
#17 Tennessee 19, #3 Georgia 14 - October 9, 2004
By Brian Rice
The 2004 Tennessee-Georgia game looked to be a study in opposite ends of the SEC spectrum.
Certainly, the stats pointed to teams with opposite circumstances.
The Volunteers started the season with a surprising 4-0 record, but had come crashing back to earth a week earlier in a 34-10 loss at home against Auburn and went to Athens at 4-1. Still, the record exceeded preseason expectations, thanks to the early success of freshmen quarterbacks Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer and solid performances from running backs Cedric Houston and Gerald Riggs Jr.
The Bulldogs entered the home game at 4-0, fresh off a 45-16 rout of LSU, avenging a loss in the 2003 SEC Championship Game. Georgia was led by a pair of senior Davids, Greene the quarterback on the offensive side and Pollack the linebacker on the defensive side.
Tennessee went to Georgia as a double-digit underdog, despite trailing UGA by just a game in the race to represent the Easter Division in the SEC Championship Game, with a division win over Florida already behind them. That goal was fresh on the mind of senior linebacker Kevin Burnett, who drew ridicule from local media in the run up to the game by declaring that Tennessee would see Auburn again.
"They didn't really say anything this week, but you could tell they didn't have a lot of respect for us," Ainge would say of Georgia after the game.
The Volunteers looked to set the tempo early and did just that on the opening drive. UT wanted to establish the running game with Houston and Riggs and each got carries as UT drive down the field. But the big plays all came off the arm of Ainge, who completed passes of 39, 3, 10 and 22 yards, the last of those to Bret Smith for a touchdown to give Tennessee the 7-0 lead.
Georgia went three-and-out on its first possession, giving the ball back to Tennessee at its own 33. Again the Vol offense moved the ball, mostly on the ground this time around, and extended the lead to 10-0 with a James Wilhoit field goal.
Another three-and-out by the Volunteer defense gave UT the ball back on the right side of the 50, but a fumble by Houston put the Bulldogs back in business. D.J. Shockley, whose mobility gave UGA a different dimension at quarterback, entered the game in place of Greene and drove UGA 63 yards for a touchdown to draw within 3 at 10-7. Tennessee added another Wilhoit field goal shortly before halftime to take a 13-7 lead to the locker room.
The third quarter was one of squandered opportunities for both sides. An intentional grounding penalty took Georgia out of field goal range on its opening possession. Riggs fumbled on the opening play of the ensuing UT possession giving UGA the ball right back inside the red zone, but a missed field goal four plays later kept the score at 13-7. An Ainge pass and a key pass interference call gave UT a shot at extending the lead, but Wilhoit missed his second field goal attempt of the day.
Tennessee cracked the scoring column again two plays into the fourth quarter, as Ainge hit Chris Hannon on a 4-yard TD pass, set up by a failed Bulldog 4th-down conversion near midfield. UT went for two to try an pull two touchdowns ahead, but Ainge's pass fell to the turf and the score remained 19-7.
The UT defense stood tall again, forcing another three-and out, but Wilhoit missed FG number three on the end of the drive, once again giving life to the Bulldogs. UGA drove down the field, mostly on Greene passes before Danny Ware capped the drive by diving in for a touchdown on 4th-and goal from the 1-yard line with 4:22 to go.
Three Riggs runs chewed a couple of minutes off the game clock but picked up only nine yards, leading to a Dustin Colquitt punt that pinned UGA at its own 13. Greene moved his team downfield, looking to recreate the last-minute comeback he engineered against Tennessee as a freshman in 2001. The magic and the clock ran out on Greene and his team at the UT 19, and the Vols escaped Athens with the upset of Georgia, 19-14, to end the Bulldog's four-year winning streak in the series.
"We are really, really happy right now," Phillip Fulmer said when asked to reflect on the game. "Our kids laid it on the line tonight. We are a good football team and this was a good old-fashioned SEC football game today."
Tennessee totaled just 277 yards of total offense, but held Georgia to a similar number, 265. Riggs was the only running back in the game to rush for 100 yards, picking up 102 yards on 26 carries. Ainge was 12-21 for 150 yards and two scores.
"I never doubted that we would win," Riggs said. "I have total confidence in my team."