Tennessee Players Recall the Joyful Exception to Their Disappointing Season

Tennessee Players Recall the Joyful Exception to Their Disappointing Season

Unfortunately, that moment was brought up several times here Monday at SEC media days. So it will be recounted here briefly, and you will be notified when it is safe to read again.

Tennessee cornerback Emmanuel Mosely was on the visiting bench at Sanford Stadium, sitting next to teammate Cameron Reeves-Maybin. They were sure they had just given up a demoralizing last-second touchdown to Georgia that had cost them the game. Their offense was on the field for its own last-second hail mary try.

“I closed my eyes,” Mosely said. “When I noticed that he caught the ball I ran on the field, and went up and hugged him. It was such a great play.”

Jauan Jennings had hauled in an improbable 43-yard touchdown with time expired, and Tennessee had shocked Georgia, 34-31.

“That was probably the craziest thing I’ve ever been a part of,” linebacker Kendal Vickers said. “I got up out of my seat and threw my helmet. I don’t remember where it went. Just the joy we felt after that game, and the disbelief we saw in all the Georgia fans, it was crazy.”

OK, it’s safe to resume reading again.

So yes, Tennessee took its turn on the first day of the SEC media days gauntlet, and while much of the day was about disappointment – how the Vols have yet to capitalize and win the SEC East – that moment last year …

Sorry, may need to look away again. Just one paragraph.

… Proved to give Tennessee its highlight of an otherwise down season, and reinforced that the Vols have switched the mojo in a series that had been dominated by Georgia.

“I’d say we have,” Mosely said, before falling back into the old cliché’ of taking it one at a time, etc.

Verbal tripe has been a thing lately for the Volunteers, whose coach has become the source of derision for some of those utterances. Butch Jones capped it off late last season when he said his players had been “champions of life.”

Tennessee’s Jauan Jennings (15) outjumps Dominick Sanders (240 and a host of other Bulldogs to haul in the game winner as time expired. BRANT SANDERLIN / AJC

Mosely was asked about that on Monday. He laughed briefly before answering.

“Coach Jones said that. You can’t look at the criticism,” Mosely said. “Basically he wanted us to be better (people) off the field. Great people in life. That’s what I took from it.”

Jones, now entering his fifth season at Tennessee – where he has tried to rebuild the program “brick by brick” – seemed to avoid that pitfall during his tour on Monday. But he came close when asked if he viewed last season as a disappointment.

“I don’t view it as a disappointment. The way I view it is we didn’t accomplish everything we set ourselves out to. And, again, our goal every year is to win a championship and compete to win a championship,” Jones said.

“So, was it a disappointment? No. Did we not accomplish some of the things we set out to do? Absolutely. We have to learn from the things that went wrong that we could have done better.”

Jones added that his team started 5-0, with those five wins coming against teams that won their divisions. Alas, Georgia was the fifth game, and it did not win its division.

Jones may have issued some talking points to his players, as evidenced by offensive lineman Jason Robertson’s response when asked about Jones possibly being on the hot seat.

“We’re one of three teams who have had back-to-back 9-game winning seasons. Also, we won three consecutive bowl games, and that hadn’t been done at the University of Tennessee in 20 years,” Robertson said. “That’s a lot of positives.”

Actually, the best positive may be that Jones has elevated the program, after about a decade of struggle, to the point that there is pressure. And …

Look away, Georgia fans.

… After losing five in a row to Georgia, the Volunteers can now boast a two-game winning streak. And as much of a disappointment as last year may have been, the Vols still have that hail mary.

“I’m definitely going to remember that for the rest of my life,” Vicker said. “That specific play.”

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