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October 8, 2010

When the Vols Didn't Mind Kissing Their Sister...

Nearly four months ago, I posted first-half highlights from Georgia's season opener versus Tennessee in 1968.  On the eve of the 2010 Bulldogs-Volunteers game and during a season of bad breaks and misfortune, I thought posting the second-half highlights of the '68 game - a contest with perhaps the most controversial and disputed ending in Georgia football history - would be appropriate.

The clip is just a narrative version and almost 13 minutes long (I couldn't resist including Jake Scott's remarkable 90-yard punt return towards the beginning).  The controversial Tennessee touchdown occurs around the 10:30 mark and, from this clip, it's difficult to determine whether Volunteer receiver Gary Kreis catches the game-tying scoring pass or drops it. 

Notice narrator and Tennessee's John Ward makes no mention of how the pass might have been dropped.  Also, checkout the Volunteers' jubilation following the game - maybe the biggest celebration ever by a team following a tied game.

Leading 17-9 late in the game, Georgia, attempting to run out the clock, committed a five-yard penalty, forcing a Bulldog punt by Spike Jones.  Following a kick into the end zone, Tennessee started from its own 20-yard line with only 2:41 left in the contest. 

Quarterback Bubba Wyche, who would pass for six of his 14 completions on the game's final drive, began moving the Volunteers towards the Bulldogs’ goal.  Tennessee faced a second and goal on Georgia’s four-yard line with approximately 30 seconds remaining; however, successive eight-yard sacks by Bill Stanfill and Billy Payne pushed the Volunteers back to the 20-yard line.  An upset victory for Georgia over 9th-ranked Tennessee was all but clinched.  

Wyche dropped back in the pocket, set himself, and fired a pass over the middle to Gary Kreis.  Just as Kreis tried to make the catch near Georgia’s goal line, cornerback Penny Pennington hit the receiver, jarring the ball loose.  Kreis rolled into the end zone and in the process, gained possession of the football. 

To the Bulldogs' disbelief, officials ruled a Tennessee touchdown.  With time expired, Wyche passed to tight end Ken DeLong for a two-point conversion to end the game in a 17-17 tie. 

The Vols celebrated on the field, acting as if it had won the game.  Head coach Doug Dickey later stated that he had never been prouder of a team in his life. On the contrary, several Bulldog players were brought to tears as the team felt as though it had suffered a defeat.

Kreis had been instructed in the huddle to simply “get into the end zone.”  On the receiver's pass route, he ran downfield and came back across the middle where he was thrown the ball and then greeted by Pennington.  Kreis later admitted that he did indeed bobble the ball as he was being tackled, but he had not dropped it as he rolled into the end zone. 

Two days later, it would be revealed that Kreis was inaccurate in his assessment.

Rumors and unconfirmed reports were disclosed the following Monday morning that Kreis had actually trapped the football as he rolled over Georgia’s goal line.  Members of the media examined game film and concluded that Wyche’s pass definitely bounced from Kreis’ hands to the turf and then rebounded directly back into his arms as he rolled into the end zone. 

As Pennington and Kreis rolled over the goal line, the receiver was still trying to gain possession.  Four officials had mistakenly taken victory away from Georgia; what was ruled a touchdown was actually an incomplete pass.

When Georgia's Vince Dooley was told what the game film revealed, he simply responded that "games are not won on Sunday"; looking at film after a game was not going change its outcome.  

Part of this post is an edited version of a story from my book, "The 50 Greatest Plays in Georgia Bulldogs Football History".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really cool post... My dad was at that 68 UT game and has always talked about Scott's return. I had never seen it until now. I showed my dad your post and he saw the return for the first time since that game 40plus years ago. Thanks for taking an aging and really old dog back in time!