Last week we shared our picks for the most rewatchable Tennessee games of the last 30 years. They lean toward the dramatic, with plenty of offense from both sides.
But maybe you love seeing Tennessee’s defense do its thing? Or maybe, in these strange days, you’re in the mood for pure dominance?
Here are our picks for Tennessee’s most rewatchable beatdowns:
The birth of the “Decade” of Dominance. The Vols started 0-6 in 1988, then won their last five games, a story told in full on the latest Host of Volunteers podcast. The 1989 Vols barely beat Colorado State in the opener. And then they went to #6 UCLA in a west coast night game, and rolled. A filthy coming out party for the CobbWebb – you’ll see all kinds of triple option fun in this game with those two and Sterling Henton.
After an 11-1 SEC Championship season in 1989, Chuck Webb blew his knee out in the second game of the 1990 season. Enter Tony Thompson, who ran for 248 yards at Mississippi State in his first start. Bonus points for the fumblerooski in this one.
There are lots of great Peyton Manning choices for this list, but none of them combine such a great rushing performance against a quality opponent. Georgia was undefeated and ranked 13th. The Vols made a change at running back, and this became the “Give the Ball to Jamal” game: 343 yards through the air for Manning, 232 on the ground for Jamal Lewis, and one of the best beatdowns of a good team in the last 30 years.
The Steve Tanneyhill revenge tour. After the long-haired South Carolina quarterback led an upset the previous year – the Gamecocks’ first in the SEC, which also cost Johnny Majors his job – he came to Knoxville for round two. If you’d like to see why SP+ rates the ’93 Vols as the decade’s best, this blowout is a great example. Also rewatchable: the 1995 edition, where a senior Tanneyhill drove the Gamecocks to the one yard line on the opening drive. He was helicoptered on a goal line hit, couldn’t get in on second or third down, and the Vols blocked the field goal and ran it back for a touchdown to kick off a 56-21 beat down.
Heartbroken after losing to LSU in the SEC Championship Game, this was a terrific epilogue on the 2001 season. The first and only meeting between these two programs, and the first after the Manning/Woodson Heisman drama four years earlier. And yep, it’s a beatdown. Jason Witten outrunning their secondary is the most memorable highlight, but far from the only one.
One of the clearest crossroad games of the last 30 years: lose, and Fulmer’s job is in serious trouble. Win, and you’re in first place in the SEC East. And Tennessee outright dominated a team that would finish the year ranked second in the nation.
One of the most joyfully surprising evenings I’ve ever seen at Neyland. I think it’s how equally surprising the struggles of 2005 were, that made you doubt if the Vols could bounce back for the first time in 15+ years. And then they bounced back with a vengeance in this one. My favorite blowout that didn’t involve our biggest rivals.
The downpour. Heath Shuler and the Vols won a thrilling 34-31 contest at Georgia the week before in Phillip Fulmer’s interim stint. This one, in front of the rain-soaked masses in Knoxville, was even more surprising and brilliant.
If you want to skip to the second half, it’s cool. The Vols led 7-3 at the break, and Dale Carter probably should’ve let the second half kickoff bounce out of bounds. He did not. And the Vols never looked back. Easily the best single half of football of my lifetime in Steve Spurrier’s first trip to Knoxville as the Gator coach. Florida was ranked ninth. The Vols won by 42.
Other than everything that happened in 1998, this is the best of the Phillip Fulmer era. No wins over the Tide since 1985. Peyton Manning and Joey Kent on play number one. Streaks are made to be broken; this one was obliterated.
What did we miss?