DAWGS UPSET TENNESSEE 26-24

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - With his team tied with Tennessee at halftime Saturday, Georgia coach Mark Richt told his players to "act like champions." "If you make a big play, go back to the huddle. Act like we've been there before," the first-year coach said.

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But how could Richt's players know how to behave after winning at Tennessee?

Before Saturday's last-second 26-24 upset of sixth-ranked Tennessee, no Georgia team had won at Neyland Stadium since 1980.

Georgia redshirt freshman quarterback David Greene was not born in 1980.

Even fifth-year senior fullback Verron Haynes, who caught the game-winning, 6-yard touchdown pass from Greene with only five seconds left to play, was only 1 when Georgia launched its 1980 national championship season with a win over Tennessee.

Saturday's last-minute drive followed a 62-yard touchdown reception by Travis Stephens that gave the Vols the lead with 44 seconds to play. The celebration from Tennessee fans in the Neyland Stadium crowd of107,592 ended quickly when Greene brought the Bulldogs back down the field in just five plays.

Maybe Georgia players - including many who fell in piles of giddy celebrations, and others who exchanged postgame bravado and a shove or two with Tennessee players in a short-lived midfield circle - didn't know the best way to act like champions after the improbable win.

But after Georgia's biggest road victory at least since beating No. 6 LSU in 1998, it owns wins over the Volunteers in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1980-81.

The Bulldogs have better cause to act like they've been there before. And now that Georgia has marched 59 yards in 39 seconds for a last-minute, game-winning touchdown, it will have more reason to believe the next time it faces such long odds.

"We didn't give up today until there were all zeroes on the scoreboard," said Georgia tight end Randy McMichael, who led the Bulldogs with six catches for 108 yards, including two for 40 yards in the game-winning drive. "You have to believe (in Georgia) now."

Georgia took Tennessee's best shot - in the form of the big touchdown from Stephens - inside the final minute. The Bulldogs, with a calm Richt setting the example for an equally poised Greene, answered with their own last-second drama.

Tennessee (3-1, 2-1 SEC) was favored by 11 points. It was further bolstered by the knowledge that in 10 years with Coach Philip Fulmer, the Vols had not lost at home to any team that wasn't ranked sixth or better. That streak is over with the loss to the unranked Bulldogs.

"This was a tough loss," Fulmer said. "... We're heartbroken now."

When Tennessee jumped to an early 14-3 lead in the first quarter, this looked like a rout.

Instead, unranked Georgia (3-1, 2-1) outscored the Vols 23-10 the rest of the way, marching back for a 17-17 halftime tie.

After a scoreless third quarter, Georgia led 20-17 on Billy Bennett's second field goal of the game with 5:44 left to play. An interception by Georgia safety Jermaine Phillips with 1:53 left to play looked to be the clinching act for the Bulldogs.

But Georgia was stopped on downs with the help of three Tennessee timeouts, and the Vols again had the ball with 1:21 left to play.

In what appeared to be a knockout punch, Stephens - who rushed for 176 yards and added 78 yards receiving - caught a screen pass from Casey Clausen and raced down the Tennessee sideline for the go-ahead touchdown.

What were Richt's thoughts while watching Stephens score?

"I was thinking 'How much time is left? We have one timeout," Richt said. "How are we going to get the ball down the field?"

Trailing 24-20, a field goal would not help. But Greene, showing impressive composure, completed 4-of-5 passes as Georgia's offense moved in a blur that silenced the Tennessee fans.

"He's the coolest quarterback I've been around; he didn't look like a freshman," Haynes said.

The game-winning play - on Haynes' first career touchdown reception - left only five seconds on the clock. Georgia didn't kick the extra point, avoiding the risk of a block and return. Besides, Georgia had made its point.

"You have to give Georgia credit. They played for 60 minutes and we didn't," Tennessee cornerback Andre Lott said. "With their new coach (Richt) they have an aggressive style."

The Bulldogs also have a new-found confidence.

"It's a defining moment for the seniors and the whole team," Richt said. "I'm thankful we could pull it off."

Georgia's Verron Haynes (35) keeps his eye on the ball as he makes a catch with five seconds left in the fourth quarter for a touchdown to help his team defeat Tennessee, 26-24, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2001 in Knoxville, Tenn. (Wade Payne, AP)

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