Georgia 26, Tennessee 24 (2001): When a 'hobnail boot' described an instant classic

University of Georgia photo / Georgia fullback Verron Haynes celebrates the winning touchdown reception in the 26-24 triumph at Tennessee on Oct. 6, 2001.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the sixth story in a series on the 15 most memorable SEC football games beat writer David Paschall has covered since joining the newspaper in 1990. The games are being presented in chronological order.

Nearly two decades have passed since Georgia's 26-24 defeat of Tennessee inside Neyland Stadium in 2001, which forever will be known as the "Hobnail Boot" game thanks to legendary Bulldogs announcer Larry Munson.

The Bulldogs were 2-1 and unranked heading to Knoxville, while the Volunteers were 3-0 and No. 6 nationally, having yet to face Florida due to scheduling adjustments made after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Hindsight has proven that Jim Donnan left a full cupboard in Athens when he was forced out in December 2000 after five seasons, but Georgia's venture to an imposing facility that could house at least 104,000 marked the first road game of Mark Richt's head coaching career. It was also first road start for redshirt freshman quarterback David Greene.

"In a coaching transition, it's tough on the players and they're upset, usually rightfully so," Richt said after the biggest triumph of his debut season. "I told them, 'This is for you, no matter what.' It's a defining moment for our seniors and the whole team. I'm thankful we could pull it off."

Georgia and Tennessee each seemed to be in control on multiple occasions, with the Vols racing out to a 14-3 lead on Casey Clausen touchdown passes to Kelley Washington and Leonard Scott in the first quarter. It became a one-score game the rest of the way early in the second quarter, when Damien Gary returned a Dustin Colquitt punt 72 yards for a touchdown that made it 14-10.

The Bulldogs held a 20-17 advantage in the game's final minute when Travis Stephens took a screen pass from Clausen and raced 62 yards for a stunning score that resulted in a Neyland Stadium eruption. Stephens was untouched until safety Terreal Bierria's desperation grab inside the 10-yard line.

"You could feel everything shake," Richt said. "I've never heard a crowd so loud."

Some of that delirium eased, though, when an ineffective squib kick was returned 6 yards by tight end Randy McMichael to Georgia's 41-yard line, leaving the Bulldogs 59 yards away with 39 seconds remaining.

"I kind of prepared myself for the moment," Greene said afterward about the brief 24-20 deficit. "I kept telling myself to stay focused. We started moving the ball and started clicking."

Aided by Greene-to-McMichael connections that gained 27 and 14 yards, the Bulldogs zipped to the Tennessee 6-yard line with 10 seconds left. On first-and-goal, fullback Verron Haynes shot through the line and Greene faked a handoff to Musa Smith before finding Haynes alone in the middle of the end zone for the clinching points with five seconds to spare.

The touchdown was accompanied by the most violent description of Munson's lengthy career.

"We just stepped on their face with a hobnail boot and broke their nose," Munson exclaimed. "We just crushed their face."

Georgia's triumph was its first inside Neyland Stadium since 1980, when Herschel Walker made his collegiate debut and rallied the Bulldogs from a 15-0 deficit to a 16-15 victory. In between were five consecutive Tennessee wins by the average score of 32-16.

The pass to Haynes capped Greene's memorable afternoon of 21-0f-34 passing for 303 yards, with that effort coming against a Tennessee defense that ranked third nationally, allowing only 222.3 total yards a game.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

photo AP photo by Todd J. Van Emst / Mark Richt got a big win in his first season as a head coach when his Georgia Bulldogs rallied late to win at Tennessee on Oct. 6, 2001.


Thirty years of SEC memories began with dominance of Pat Dye, Johnny Majors

Florida 48, Auburn 7 (1990): Spurrier's Gators arrived while ushering out Dye's Tigers

Alabama 28, Florida 21 (1992): Steve Spurrier on SEC title game: 'I didn't even know it was legal'

Auburn 38, Florida 35 (1993): The year college football's 'best team on radio' went 11-0

Alabama 29, Georgia 28 (1994): The night Jay Barker had to outlast Eric Zeier

Tennessee 28, Arkansas 24 (1998): Billy Ratliff's play arguably the most memorable in Vols history

Georgia 24, Auburn 21 (2002): The fourth-and-15 play that turned a Florida-Auburn SEC title matchup into Georgia-Arkansas

LSU 17, Georgia 10 (2003): Nick Saban gets LSU back among the national elite

Florida 31, Alabama 20 (2008): Turning the SEC title game into a national semifinal

Alabama 12, Tennessee 10 (2009): The day 'Mount Cody' spoiled Tennessee's upset bid

Auburn 28, Alabama 27 (2010): The surreal day when Nick Saban lost a 24-point lead at home

Alabama 32, Georgia 28 (2012): Time runs out on Georgia in the most thrilling SEC title game played to date

Georgia 44, LSU 41 (2013): Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger meet again to provide a classic

Auburn 34, Alabama 28 (2013): Navigating thousands to interview 'Kick Six' components quite the task

Alabama 26, Georgia 23, OT (2017 season): Crimson Tide win walk-off national title over Bulldogs