This Saturday's football game between Georgia and Tennessee at Neyland Stadium will be Mark Richt's 110th as coach of the Bulldogs.
Richt has compiled 85 victories, including two in Southeastern Conference championship games and two in the Sugar Bowl. He also has sustained 24 defeats, most of which have been by a touchdown or less, such as last Saturday's 20-13 loss to LSU.
There has been one absolute egg during the Richt regime, and it occurred the last time the Bulldogs traveled to Knoxville.
"If you're talking about 60 minutes worth of football," Richt said, "I don't think there is any game that felt more empty than that day."
On Oct. 6, 2007, the 12th-ranked Bulldogs were shellacked by the unranked Vols, 35-14. The Vols roared out to a 28-0 halftime lead, which was the largest halftime deficit Georgia had faced under Richt until Alabama led 31-0 at the break of last year's 41-30 win in Athens.
Tennessee had a 291-59 advantage in total yards after two quarters, with that 232-yard gap the largest of the Richt era.
"We just weren't ready to play that day, for whatever reason," Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said. "We weren't ready to go as a coaching staff, and we didn't have the players ready to go."
IN BETTER TIMES
Georgia and Tennessee are meeting as unranked teams this Saturday for the first time since 1937. This week, Times Free Press staff writer David Paschall takes a look at the top five games in this series.
No 5: UT’s 2004 upset in Athens
Wednesday: No. 4 matchup
Thursday: No. 3 matchup
Friday: No. 2 matchup
Saturday: No. 1 matchup
TENNESSEE 19, GEORGIA 14 (2004)
The Bulldogs entered Sanford Stadium ranked No. 3 nationally and flying high, having shredded defending national champion LSU 45-16 in their previous game. Tennessee arrived as the nation’s No. 17 team and with little momentum, having been drubbed 34-10 at home by Auburn the week before. The Vols were nearly two-touchdown underdogs but took their opening possession 80 yards in 10 plays, scoring on a 22-yard pass from freshman quarterback Erik Ainge to Bret Smith. The Bulldogs went three-and-out, and the Vols made it 10-0 with a 13-play, 49-yard drive that culminated with James Wilhoit’s 35-yard field goal. Gerald Riggs rushed for 102 yards and Tennessee’s defense tallied five sacks, while Georgia missed a 29-yard field goal and had a 93-yard kickoff return called back for holding. “We could not get anything going,” Georgia senior quarterback David Greene said. “None of the things that went right against LSU went our way today.” Tennessee’s upset resulted in the Vols bumping Georgia out of a third straight SEC East title.
Said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo: "We didn't do a good job of anything that day, and I think it was evident."
Tennessee stumbled into the '07 matchup with a 2-2 record, having lost its opener at California (45-31) and getting massacred in its league opener at Florida (59-20). The Vols did have the advantage of an open date before Georgia's visit.
The Bulldogs went three-and-out to start the game, and the Vols answered with a 12-play, 81-yard march that culminated with Arian Foster's 9-yard touchdown run. Tennessee was much less methodical on its second score, opening the second quarter with Lucas Taylor taking an end-around handoff from Erik Ainge and throwing across the field to an open LaMarcus Coker for a 56-yard strike.
Georgia's only blip of hope occurred early in the third quarter when a 26-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Demiko Goodman pulled the Bulldogs within 28-7, but Tennessee answered with a 13-play, 65-yard touchdown drive. Ainge finished 17-of-22 passing for 165 yards, while Foster and Montario Hardesty combined for 166 yards on 31 carries.
"We needed this pretty bad," Ainge said after the game. "It put us back in the race, and 35-14 doesn't even tell what happened."
That game turned out to be the deciding factor in Tennessee winning the SEC East, but the Bulldogs regrouped to win their final seven games. Georgia finished 11-2 two years ago and No. 2 in the Associated Press poll.
Georgia could have as many as six starters this week who started in the Knoxville debacle two years ago: offensive linemen Chris Davis and Clint Boling, defensive linemen Jeff Owens and Geno Atkins, linebacker Darius Dewberry and cornerback Prince Miller. They need no reminding.
"I don't think our guys had their heads in the game," Owens said. "They weren't having that great of a season, and I think we took them too lightly. I can't remember another day like that."
Early kick at Vandy
Georgia's game at Vanderbilt on Oct. 17 was picked up Monday by ESPN Regional and will have a 12:21 p.m. Eastern kickoff, locally on WDSI.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...