SI Vault
Dan Jenkins
September 23, 1968
It was played on a carpet, but it was no parlor game as Tennessee got the college football season off to a smashing start by scoring as the clock ran out and completing a two-point conversion pass to tie Georgia
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September 23, 1968

A Rouser On A Rug

It was played on a carpet, but it was no parlor game as Tennessee got the college football season off to a smashing start by scoring as the clock ran out and completing a two-point conversion pass to tie Georgia

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As it turned out, the game would have been a classic if it had been played on a barge moving down the Tennessee River, which almost washes against the end zone of the Vols' stadium.

It started out very much like one of those old-fashioned SEC games. A lot of defense, punting, fumbles and missed field goals. As a matter of fact, Tennessee recovered an implausible seven fumbles in the first half, four of Georgia's and three of its own, the ball always bouncing right on the Vols' Tartan surface. It was one of those Georgia fumbles that led to Tennessee's seven-point lead. A bad hand-off gave the Vols the ball at the Georgia 17. Five plays later Tennessee Tailback Mike Jones dived high over a pyramid of players for the touchdown, proving among other things that a fellow can probably jump higher on phony grass.

By the middle of the third quarter Georgia had managed to get a 40-yard field goal by Jim McCullough and the Tennessee lead had been narrowed, but the game was still under control. And then Tennessee's Herman Weaver booted one of his 13 punts (he averaged a remarkable 45 yards) some 57 yards through the clear air. The ball drifted around up there with the Goodyear blimp for a while and then came down into the arms of Georgia Safety Jake Scott, who can run.

Scott did a little dart to his left, and another to his right, and he drifted back some to let a teammate, Lee Daniel, lay a crunching block on Tennessee's fine end, Ken DeLong. Then he was going down the sideline, right past his own bench, jumping over a Georgia helmet that had spilled out onto the rug, and finally he was long gone—90 yards to a touchdown. "I thought somebody was chasing me," he said later. "But I looked back and saw he was ours."

In the middle of the fourth quarter, after Tennessee Linebacker Steve Kiner had trapped Georgia Quarterback Donnie Hampton trying to pass from his one-inch line for a safety that narrowed the score to 10-9, Georgia Fullback Bruce Kemp got away on a journey that almost matched Scott's. It was an ordinary off-tackle play, except it was executed perfectly, which rarely happens. Starting at his own 20, Kemp broke a tackle just beyond the line and went 80 yards. Now it was 17-9, and Georgia had slowly begun to look like the better team. The Bulldogs had two ferocious linemen, Tackle Bill Stanfill and End Billy Payne, who had shut off Tennessee's running game and had kept Bubba Wyche's passes from moving the Vols.

There were just two and a half minutes left when Tennessee found itself on its 20-yard line with, really, only one last chance to tie the game. But now Wyche proved he was no ordinary quarterback. At this point he had hit only nine of 26 passes and ought to have been discouraged, but he had to keep passing. He managed two short completions—and then found Lester McClain, a tall sophomore from Nashville who is Tennessee's first Negro varsity player, with a big 14-yarder when it was fourth and three. The roar from the stands rivaled that during halftime when the band formed a Confederate flag.

Wyche, looking like a pro quarterback on a desperation march, completed three more passes down to the Georgia four-yard line. But then Tennessee started going in reverse. Two impassioned defensive plays by Stanfill and Payne pushed Wyche back to the 21 with just four seconds showing on the clock. Wyche called for a post-pattern pass and then turned to End Gary Kreis in the huddle and said, "Do or die. You better get it, Gary."

Kreis, who had dropped three passes earlier, crossed over the middle and Wyche threw to the goal line. Kreis grabbed the ball at the one-yard line, felt it slipping sickeningly from his grasp as he fell into the end zone on his back and then had it again when he hit the Tartan. It was two seconds after the zeros had flashed on the clock.

But Tennessee still had to come up with a two-point play to get the tie. Wyche spread out his flankers again and fired over the middle again, this time hitting Ken DeLong right in the belly at the one. DeLong was falling as he turned into the end zone, and before he could get up the whole state of Tennessee was swarming after him, stomping around and hollering on that synthetic turf about an ending to a game that was not synthetic at all.

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