[su_spacer size=”20″] The Bulldawgs were coming off an 8 – 5 record after the 2000 season and had decided to change the direction of the program. There was definitely some uneasiness about the lack of success Georgia had been having against top programs in the SEC and around the nation. The feeling on campus and throughout the DawgNation was that Georgia needed a spark to excite the fan base and prove the program had not slipped into the abyss of irrelevance.
[su_spacer size=”40″] The 2001 season was Mark Richt’s inaugural term as the Dawgs head man and he needed to give his team, his school, and the fans something to believe in. Georgia started their season off 2 – 1, splitting its first two SEC contests and losing to hated rival South Carolina in a bitter 14 -9 defeat. Georgia fans understood the team was in a rebuilding mode and no one was sure of exactly what to make of the new leader who had made his way to Athens after a long stint under the tutelage of Bobby Bowden at FSU.
[su_spacer size=”40″] So, take a team you’re unsure about, give them a first time head coach, a freshman quarterback, put them in an SEC conference game on the road for the first time, put them in front of 102,000 thousand plus fans, virtually all singing “Rocky Top”, give them a four point deficit, 44 seconds with which to work, all while having them face off against a great tenured coach and the #6 team in the land. Sprinkle in for effect one of the greatest voices in college sports to ever broadcast a game, by whose words and sometimes gravelly pessimism you would live and die. Sound like a recipe for success? It’s not. This scenario and adversity wouldn’t create success; it created legends! So, almost 20 years after Herschel made magic in the foothills of the “Great Smoky Mountains”, another freshman Georgia sensation led the Dawgs to a great team victory for the ages.
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[su_spacer size=”40″] On what should have been the Vols’ final drive, Tennessee had made their way into Georgia territory and close to potential field goal range. But, with 2:00 minutes to go from the Georgia 34 yard line, Clausen took a five step drop, straightened up, looked right and lofted a pass into the right flat just to have the ball intercepted by Georgia rover back and Roswell native, Jermaine Phillips with the clock stopped at 1:53 to go in the game and a Bulldog sideline in complete euphoria.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Then, things began to happen; things that would create generational memories. Georgia took possession of the ball hoping to run down the clock. However, Tennessee had all three timeouts still in their pocket and Georgia was unwilling to take any risks. Georgia was only able to run the clock down to 1:32 and Jonathan Kilgo had to punt the ball back to the Volunteers, giving them possession of the ball from their own 22 yard line with 1:21 to go and only a single timeout in the possession of the Dawgs. And on the 4th play of the Vols last possession and the Dawgs only rushing three (3), Clausen drifted back toward the right hash mark and threw a screen pass to Travis Stephens. Stephens bolted to the left sideline and found pay dirt, 62 yards for the score, turning the silent masses into orange hysteria. Tennessee went 78 yards on 4 plays in 37 seconds. But that’s not the story. This turn of events could have easily disheartened the visitors wearing red & black and the team could have easily folded up the tent with only 44 ticks remaining on the clock. But these are the kinds of circumstances that build character and create sports heroes.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Fulmer and Tennessee made the fateful decision to “squib” the Vols’ final kickoff, which was received by Georgia’s Randy McMichael at the Bulldog 34 and returned up to the Georgia 41 yard line with 42 seconds remaining in the contest. With the whole state of Tennessee roaring against the Dawgs, rookie QB David Greene led his team on one of the most improbable drives in Bulldog lore!
[su_spacer size=”40″] The first play from scrimmage “FREEDOM TOP” was just Greene dumping the ball over the middle to Damien Gary who caught the ball, did a little “shake”, got across the “T” and got the ball to the Vols’ 47 yard line with 33 seconds remaining. After an incompletion, Greene calls “5-60 switch” and freely admits he misread the coverage. Although the safety broke on the ball, the Georgia QB was able to thread the needle and Randy McMichael made an outstanding catch at the 20 yard line with only 20 seconds left on the clock. Greene then hits McMichael again at the 6 yard line and burns Georgia’s final timeout.
[su_spacer size=”40″] AND THEN…”P-44 HAYNES”! It is still called that today! Georgia gave fans a comeback for the ages. The new head coach gave his charges a reason to believe. And in that one miraculous moment, Georgia started the trend back upward!
[su_spacer size=”40″] Knoxville has, at times, been the place where Georgia has righted Its ship! As we remember this moment in time, Georgia may be looking to Neyland Stadium to help provide the backdrop for another Bulldog resurrection.