ATLANTA (AP) — No. 25 Tennessee rallied from a pair of 14-point deficits in the second half and stopped a 2-point conversion in the second overtime, stunning Georgia Tech 42-41 despite giving up five rushing touchdowns to TaQuon Marshall and getting thoroughly dominated statistically Monday night.
Bolstering the outlook for embattled coach Butch Jones, the Volunteers pulled off a remarkable season-opening victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in a game they seemed to have no business winning.
John Kelly scored the tying touchdown in regulation on an 11-yard run with 1:29 remaining, and then added two more TD runs in overtime. Marshall, in a remarkable performance in his first college start, matched Kelly's scores with a pair of his own, finishing the game with 249 yards rushing and a school record for rushing TDs.
After Marshall got to the end zone on a 13-yard run in the second overtime, Georgia Tech decided to go for the win right there rather than a tying PAT and a potential third overtime. But Marshall was stuffed as he tried to cut inside, and a desperation pitch was ruled an incomplete pass, ending the game.
Georgia Tech rushed for 535 yards, finished with 655 yards overall and held the ball for 41 minutes, 27 seconds during regulation. Tennessee was held to 369 yards and ran just 59 plays, compared to 96 by the Yellow Jackets.
But Tennessee came up with two crucial turnovers, most notably J.J. Green's fumble when the Yellow Jackets appeared to be driving for a clinching score. Georgia Tech also missed two field goals.
Green was hit from behind by Rashaan Gaulden at the Tennessee 25, the ball rolled forward and Micah Abernathy fell on it for the Vols at the 7 with 4:50 remaining. Tennessee drove nearly the length of the field for the tying score.
New Vols quarterback Quinten Dormady hooked up with Marquez Callaway on a 40-yard reception and Kelly finished off the drive. The running back finished with 128 yard on the ground.
Callaway, stepping up big when top receiver Jauan Jennings went out with an injury in the first half, also had a pair of touchdown catches and finished with four receptions for 115 yards.
Georgia Tech still had a chance to win in regulation, driving into position for walk-on Shawn Davis' 36-yard field goal attempt on the final play. But the kick was low, Paul Bain got a hand on it and the game went to OT.
Tennessee went ahead for the first time all night on its final touchdown and PAT.
It was all the Volunteers needed.
Tennessee: A huge boost for a team that hasn't won a Southeastern Conference title since its national championship season of 1998. On the down side, the Vols clearly have a lot of work to do defensively after allowing Georgia Tech to march up and down the field all night long. But Dormady, taking over at QB for Joshua Dobbs, bounced back from a shaky start to complete 20 of 37 for 221 yards with no major mistakes. Callaway also looks like the type of player who can be a huge help offensively, especially if Jennings is out for an extended period with what appeared to be a hand or wrist injury.
Georgia Tech: It will be interesting to see how the Yellow Jackets bounce back from such a crushing defeat. Marshall proved a worthy successor at quarterback to three-year starter Justin Thomas, not only with his running ability but also showing a good arm (5 of 9 for 120 yards). The defense totally broke down toward the end of the game, giving up a 50-yard touchdown to Callaway on a short pass in the flats and not slowing the Vols at all in overtime. Davis earned the kicking job in preseason camp over freshman signee Brenton King, but his tenure was short-lived. King will get a shot in the next game.
Tennessee: The Vols host Indiana State in their home opener on Saturday.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets also face a six-day turnaround in their return to campus, hosting FCS school Jacksonville State at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
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