‘Quo Vadis?’

By Tom Mattingly

That’s what the Latin scholars might say, a fancy way of asking, “Which way are you going?”

With that in mind, have more big plays happened with the Vols moving to the north end or the south end of the field, wherever the game might be?

For perspective, return to Dec. 2, 1972, the day Auburn blocked two punts in the fourth quarter to steal a win over Alabama.  The sudden turn of events turned a 16-3 deficit into a 17-16 win. David Langner picked up the ball and scored twice, finding his way to the north end zone, the end where the teams’ locker rooms were.

Tennessee was playing at Vanderbilt that day. When the final score from Birmingham wafted over the public address system, it gave Tennesseans in the stadium and within the sound of John Ward’s voice cause for concern. At the time, Tennessee was leading Vanderbilt 16-10. In his “minds-eye,” one Vol fan wondered how it looked.

Here are some salient examples.

Johnny Butler was going to the south end of Shields-Watkins Field on his famous run in the 1939 Alabama game. Film of that run was a staple of Hollywood sports movies of the 1940s, when filmmakers needed a dramatic finish.

In 1956, the Vols scored the winning TD against Georgia Tech on a Tommy Bronson 1-yard run going to the north end of Grant Field in Atlanta. John Majors and Buddy Cruze hooked up twice to get the Vols in position for the games’ only touchdown.

Then came the 1959 LSU game in Knoxville, on a play known in U.T. circles as “The Stop.”  The Vols—most notably Bill Majors, Wayne Grubb, and Charles Severance—stopped Billy Cannon short of the north goal early in the fourth quarter. Cannon was adamant he scored. Severance adamantly disagreed. LSU had three more chances in Vol territory, but couldn’t get the ball in the end zone or even kick at a game-winning field goal.

In 1965, Alabama’s Ken Stabler threw the ball away on fourth down, not third as he thought, at the southeast corner of Legion Field in the final seconds, yielding a 7-7 tie. Vol captain Hal Wantland said, “Alabama tied us.”

Bubba Wyche led the first drives of the 1967 and 1968 Alabama games to the south end of Legion Field and on Shields-Watkins Field. Both possessions resulted in touchdowns that proved pivotal in Vol victories, 24-13 in 1967 and 10-9 in 1968.

Tennessee was going south to north on the “fake punt play” late in the 1973 Georgia game.

In 1982, Alabama was driving to the north end of Shields-Watkins Field late in the fourth quarter before Mike Terry made the interception that clinched the game, breaking an 11-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide.

Johnnie Jones went 66 yards for a score to the north end of Legion Field in 1983 to help defeat Alabama, 41-34. Jones emerged from the press box shadows to a tumultuous welcome from Vol partisans at that end of the field.

Two years later, Alabama was driving to that end of the field when Dale Jones made his point-blank pass interception off Mike Shula to protect a 16-14 Vol lead.

In 1991, Tennessee had to block a field goal attempt at the south end of Notre Dame Stadium to cinch the come-from-behind triumph. Jeremy Lincoln blocked the potential game-winning kick with his rump to save the day. The final was 35-34.

Peyton Manning’s 80-yard TD pass to Joey Kent on the first play of the 1995 Alabama game at Legion Field went south to north. The game 41-14.

Jay Graham had a 75-yard, fourth quarter scoring run to the south end of Legion Field that put away the 1995 Alabama game, followed by a 79-yarder, also for a score, in 1996 to the north end of Neyland Stadium.  The final score in 1996 was 20-13.

Buck Fitzgerald’s defense of a two-point conversion try against Jabar Gaffney in the 2001 Florida game was at the southeast corner of Florida Field, leading to a 34-32 Vol victory. The controversial TD scored by Gaffney in the final seconds of the 2000 game came at the north end of Shields-Watkins Field, the pivotal moment in a 27-23 Florida win

Daniel Lincoln’s 27-yard, game-winning field goal in the 2007 South Carolina game was at the south end, as was South Carolina’s kick in response, one that faded wide right.

So… do more exciting things happen at the north or south end of the field?

The jury is still out on that question.

 

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