Clash of Titans
Games featuring a future Hall of Fame coach on each sideline.
October 6, 2001: Georgia @ Tennessee
Mark Richt vs Phillip Fulmer
When Georgia fired Coach Jim Donnan after he won only eight games in each of his last two seasons in Athens, they turned to a man who had no head coaching ex­perience at the college level, Mark Richt. However, Richt had spent 15 years at Florida State as Bobby Bowden's quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. An exemplary Christian who attributed his conversion to a locker room speech given by Bowden, Mark's best trait was his calmness under fire.
Workout from Hell
Richt brought someone with him from Florida State who would play a crucial role in turning around the Georgia program. Dave Van Halager was the strength and conditioning coach for the Seminoles since 1983. Over the years, he and Richt developed a strong friendship. Van Halager asked Richt if he could accompany him to Georgia. Starting with winter conditioning workouts, he became a crucial element in building character, toughness, and team identity in Athens.
Van Halager's primary method was a challenging activity called "mat drills." They were similar to the obstacle course in military boot camps. Players were divided into groups according to position. The gym was divided into five stations. One was a wrestling mat devoted to agility drills. Another was set up for sprinting. A third was a shuttle drill for side-to-side movement, a roped alignment for foot quickness and a plastic frame four-and-a-half feet high that forced players to duck under while mov­ing quickly.
Athletes lined up three across and a minimum of 10 lines deep. On "go," the first line moves to the first drill area with feet chopping (moving rapidly up and down bringing the knees up as high as possible) for about six seconds. On the next signal, the first group "fires out" to the second mat while the next group replaces them on the first mat. Each drill is done with great speed. Each drill must be done perfectly by all players on the line, or the group is sent back to do it again until it is done perfectly. Trash cans were lined up for players to vomit in, and trainers were available for players who pulled a muscle or lost their breath.
The coaches were constantly yelling to keep players moving quickly. They also shouted to each group, "Finish the drill!"
The players detested every minute of the drills, but they understood what was happening within their team as each was forced to reach deep inside himself and come up with perseverance and stamina they didn't know they had.
The 2001 Bulldogs began the season with a 45-17 romp over Arkansas State before losing to #21 South Carolina 14-9 in the final minute. After the next two games were canceled following the 9/11 attacks, Georgia beat Arkansas in Athens 34-23.

L: David Greene passes. R: Georgia defenders tackle Vol runner.
(University of Georgia Pandora Yearbook Class of 2002)
Next up was the biannual trip to Knoxville to play the 3-0 Tennessee Volun­teers, who were ranked #6 in the nation following their defeat of #14 LSU 26-18 the week before. Donnan's 1-4 record against the Vols was a major factor in his dismissal. Georgia had not beaten Tennessee in Knoxville since 1980, the year that the Her­schel Walker-led Bulldogs won the national championship. The Vols were 14-point favorites to continue both streaks.
Richt seized on that streak in his pregame locker room talk. "Men, you can make history today. The last time any Georgia Bulldogs got a victory out there, some of you weren't even born. … Men, 21 years is a long time. But you can do something about it today. Just stay focused. Execute. Take care of your assignment for one play, then do it again on the next one. We've got a good game plan. Let's believe in it and carry it out."
That was quite a challenge for a team still trying to find its identity under a new coaching staff. Making the job even harder was the loss of several key players to injuries, including WR Reggie Brown and LBs Will Witherspoon and Ryan Flem­ing. LB Boss Bailey would play with a cast on his broken hand.
Southpaw QB David Greene was a freshman facing his first road game in as hos­tile a venue you could find – 107,000-seat Neyland Stadium.
Even in their two victories, the Bulldogs' passing defense was vulnerable. And Vol QB Casey Clausen had torched LSU for 309y, 256 of them to newcomer Kelley Washington. Tennessee had scored 38 and 37 points against Georgia in previous two games in Knoxville.
More daunting statistics: Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer was 51-4 at Neyland Stadium and had not lost to an unranked team at home since 1992.

L-R: Casey Clausen, Donte Stallworth, Travis Stephens
(University of Tennessee Volunteer Yearbook Class of 2002)
Vols Score on Their First Possession
The home team won the toss and deferred. The strategy paid off when Georgia went three-and-out. The Vols then drove 60y in eight plays to take the lead. Stellar RB Travis Stephens scampered 23y to the UGa 19 where he stumbled and fell without being touched. QB Casey Clausen threw to Washington for 13y to the 6. Despite double coverage, Washington caught a fade pass at the left edge of the end zone as the crowd of 107,592, 95% of which wore orange, let out a deafening roar. 7-0 Tennessee with 10:33 left in the first quarter.
Dogs Answer with Field Goal
Richt had told his team right before they left the locker room: "If they blow the doors off us early, keep your composure. Believe in the plan."
Freshman Fred Gibson gave the visitors a lift when he returned the kickoff to the 43. Two runs by Musa Smith moved the chains. TE Ben Watson caught a 9y pass before Greene hit WR Labrone Mitchell on a slant route to the 18. But the Vols dug in and forced a 29y field goal by Billy Bennett. Tennessee 7 Georgia 3.
Vols Score Again
After an exchange of punts, Greene forced a throw into coverage in the middle of the field. Rashad Baker plucked the ball out of the air at full speed and ran 41y to the UGa 17. One play later, Clausen found RB Leonard Scott over the middle for a touchdown. 14-3 Tennessee with six seconds left in the first quarter.
Georgia Stopped inside the Five
Many Georgia fans, and even some on the sideline, may have thought, "Here we go again." But Richt remained calm, confident his players would stick with the plan.
Following the 31y kickoff return, Greene faked a handoff and flipped to FB Verron Haynes who rambled 29y into Vol territory. Smith carried twice in a row for another first down. On third down inside the 10, a measurement showed the Bulldogs needed another foot. Smith crashed forward for what looked like enough to get the first down, but somehow another measurement showed the ball was short. The offense, coming so close and being shortchanged after a physically exhausting drive, had every reason to be discouraged.
Punt Return Gets TD Denied Earlier
But the questionable placement riled up the Georgia defense, which quickly forced a punt. Damien Gary was forced into punt return service after Reggie Brown was lost for the season. Gary caught the kick on his 28, made several fakes to avoid traffic, and roared to the end zone where the Georgia fans were situated. It was the Bulldogs' first punt return touchdown in eight years. When he somer­saulted into the end zone, he drew a 15y excessive celebration penalty for the extra point. But Bennett still split the uprights to close the gap to 14-10 with 13:12 left to halftime.
Neyland Stadium fell silent as Big Orange fans began to think, "Maybe this is a different breed of Bulldogs we're playing."
Georgia Pulls Ahead
The Georgia defense, led by Tony Gilbert, one of the few healthy linebackers, began to corral Stephens for losses or short gains.
On offense, Greene kept finding Haynes open in the flat for good gains. TE Randy McMichael made several great catches despite being well covered, one for 19y to the Vol 37 and then 18y to the 7. After Greene was sacked for a loss of 8, he threw to Gilbert, who was all alone in the middle of the field underneath the coverage and darted into the end zone. Georgia led 17-14.
Vols Tie
Stephens finally broke loose for a 64y gain to the Georgia 16. But the Bulldogs stuffed the Vols for three plays, and they had to settle for Alex Walls' 25y field goal to tie the score at 17.
Tennessee had another shot at taking the lead, but on fourth-and-two, Walls missed a 34-yarder with 20 seconds left in the half.
Halftime score: Tennessee 17 Georgia 17
Richt Stays the Course
As the Bulldogs drank POWERADE and the coaches went over assignments with them in the locker room, they had to think about what Richt said: "Men, you can make history today."
Richt huddled with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. Led by Stephens, Tennessee ran for almost 150y in the first half and held the ball for 19 of the 30 minutes. The danger was that the defenders would wear down, particularly the injury-riddled linebacker corps. The way to stop the ground game was to bring up the safeties, but that would force the cornerbacks into single-man coverage against Washington and Scott. The week before, Nick Saban's LSU team tried that, and Washington set a school record with 256y receiving.
CB Tim Wansley was hounding Washington on every play. He was getting in his face saying, "Not on me!" But if Wansley and Bruce Thornton were left in man coverage, Washington would break loose sooner or later.
But Richt decided to stay patient and stick with the game plan. "I think our guys are up to the challenge." VanGorder agreed to stay with the two-deep safeties coverage. He also planned to rotate eight players on defense, including promising freshman T David Pollack.
Scoreless Third Quarter
Georgia's defense and punting team held the Vols without a point in the third quarter. Two punts in a row were downed at the UT 1. The bad field position made offensive coordinator Randy Sanders become even more conservative. The home crowd even let loose with a few boos.
However, the Bulldogs could do nothing with their excellent field position against Tennessee's injury-riddled defense. It appeared that the next team to score might win.
When the third quarter ended, each Bulldog held up four fingers. Many of them shouted, "Finish the drill!" Others called out, "Mat drills! Mat drills!"
Bulldogs Retake Lead
Georgia got the ball at its 12 with eight minutes left in the game. Green con­nected with Gibson on another underneath route, and he bolted 55y to the UT 33 where CB Jabari Greer made a touchdown-saving tackle. RB Jasper Sanks carried to the 21. After a penalty, McMichael grabbed a magnificent pass from Greene to the 21. Sanks gained to the 12. But a penalty set Georgia back and brought on Bennett, who kicked a 31y field goal. 20-17 Georgia with 5:44 remaining as Ney­land Stadium went from madhouse to morgue.
Scintillating Final Minute
Could the tiring Georgia defense preserve the lead?
Tennessee slowly but surely moved into UGa territory until S Jermaine Phillips made a leaping interception. Georgia fans rejoiced, thinking, "It's going to happen."
But not so fast, my friend. Richt ordered three straight runs to force the Vols to use all their timeouts. As a result, only 21 seconds ran off the clock. Tennessee sent almost everyone after P Jonathan Kilgo, but he got the kick off to the UT 21 with 1:15 on the clock.
After Washington dropped a pass when hit by Phillips, FB Troy Fleming took a throw for a first down at the 37. With the Bulldogs sitting on every route, Bailey almost intercepted a pass.
When your backs are against the wall, turn to your best player. Clausen dropped a screen pass to Stephens, who accelerated past Georgia's exhausted linebackers and defensive backs 63y all the way to the end zone. Rocky Top exploded as Vol fans celebrated one of the greatest victories in school history while Georgia fans dropped their heads into their hands and sank in despair. Tennessee 24 Georgia 20.
"If we get the victory," UT captain Fred Weary said, "that would be a big play in Tennessee history."
Richt Remains Calm
Amid the deafening roar, Richt showed no emotion on the sideline. He was al­ready talking to Greene about what to do in the remaining 44 seconds.
Wanting to avoid a long runback, Tennessee chose to squib kick, a decision that would provoke much criticism after the game. Needing a touchdown, Georgia started at its own 40.
 "Stay focused," Greene told his huddle, reflecting the calmness of his head coach. "There's plenty of time to win this thing." This was what the offseason mat drills that made many players physically ill prepared them for.
Tennessee decided to play mostly zone coverage in the remaining seconds rather than the more aggressive man-to-man they employed most of the time.
The slot receiver, Gary, caught a pass, broke a tackle, and ran to the UT 47 for a first  time, stopping the clock as the chains were moved. Then Greene had to throw the ball away when no one was open as the clock read 0:26. McMichael made another catch between two orange jerseys to put the pigskin on the 20 as the noise in the stadium diminished. Had FS Baker arrived a second earlier, he would have had an interception.
"It was a fingertip type of deal," said Baker, who had intercepted a pass earlier in the game. "If I was one step quicker doing what I was supposed to, it would have made the difference. I should have made the play."
McMichael did it again when he caught the next pass at the 6 with DB Andre Lott draped all over him. On the sideline, the Bulldogs were leaping up and down while they shouted and pumped their fists.
Richt Calls Special Play
Richt called timeout with 10 seconds left and met with his quarterback on the sideline. The coach had a play in mind just for this situation – "P-44 Haynes," named for the primary target of the pass, TB Verron Haynes from the Bronx NY. Richt had used it many times at Florida State, but he hadn't called it in his first three games at Georgia.
The play would work only if the Vols doubled the wide receivers while they came after the quarterback. If the middle linebacker joined the blitz, the fullback could sneak out of the backfield and have clear sailing to the end zone.
"If there's a single safety," Richt told Greene, "just throw it into the stands, and we'll have one more play. If there are two of them, we'll split the middle and throw it to Verron."
Haynes had been recruited only by I-AA Western Kentucky before he trans­ferred and walked on at Georgia. He said afterwards, "Honestly, I had forgotten all about that play We've practiced it, but I wasn't expecting it. When they called it, I just said a quick prayer: ‘Please, God, just let me seize the opportunity.'" He didn't have to block. Instead, he had to dodge the middle linebacker, run into the end zone, turn around, and catch the ball.
The play worked just as diagrammed. Greene faked a handoff as Haynes moved toward the onrushing MLB Dominique Stevenson as if to block him. Instead, he slipped into the orange and white checkerboard end zone and turned around. Sure enough, no one covered him. Greene tossed the ball to him as the UGa fans at that end went crazy. Georgia 26 Tennessee 24.

Verron Haynes catches winning touchdown pass as LB Eddie Moore comes up too late.
Tennessee defensive coordinator Jon Chavis said: "There's a 99.9 percent chance they're not going to run the football with that little time left and no timeouts. We didn't do a very good job disregarding the play-action."
Larry Munson, the radio voice of the Bulldogs, made the immortal call, "Touchdown! We threw to Hayness. We just stuffed them with five seconds left! My God almighty, it's 26-24! We just stepped on their face with a hobnailed boot and broke their nose."
Rather than take a chance on the extra point being blocked and run back for two points, Richt instructed Greene to take a knee.
The Georgia kickoff team smothered the Vols as they attempted to return the pooch kickoff. FINAL SCORE: GEORGIA 26 TENNESSEE 24

Georgia sideline storms the field in exultation.
(University of Georgia Pandora Yearbook Class of 2002)
While Richt crossed the field to salute the Georgia fans in the end zone, his cocky Bulldogs ran to midfield and jumped on the "T" logo. "Stomping on the T gives them something to remember," said WR Gary. But that precipitated a fight that coaches from both sides had to break up.
Back in Athens, fans bolted out their front doors to celebrate in the streets.
Richt called the victory "a defining moment" for the Georgia program.
Greene said, "We've had a hard time winning big games. They always said we had the potential. We knew we were good enough to play with the big teams."
Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley: "It's something we haven't done in a long, long time, a win like this."
Fulmer: "This game wasn't lost in the last 44 seconds. Give Georgia credit, but we helped them a lot. We dropped passes, we had too many penalties, our kicking game and special teams play were atrocious. We made enough mistakes for two games."
Top Dawg: Georgia and the Revival of Georgia Football (Kindle), Georgia (2008)