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Georgia Football

The Inside Story of the Georgia Bulldogs' Hobnail Boot Win over the Tennessee Vols

November 11, 2021

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Former Georgia quarterback David Greene made certain Verron Haynes knew that the No. 6 Tennessee Vols were in quarters coverage. It was just what Mark Richt had been looking for, and Greene knew it. 

“During the cadence David said: ‘Blue 32; Blue 32… quarters V…’ He alerted me that it was quarters. He was coming to me,” former Georgia running back Verron Haynes said. “The ball was coming to me. Instantly I am shaking in my boots.”

It turns out those boots were Hobnails. 

Mark Richt’s first season at Georgia had been like none other. The fast-paced offense he wanted the Bulldogs to run was slowed down by SEC officials. Richt also had to deal with the tragedy of 9/11, and its effects on his programs and the Athens community. 

But it was the Tennessee game that gave the Dawgs a shocking result - one that almost not one saw coming and served notice to the rest of the league… this was a different Georgia. Meanwhile, Larry Munson gave perhaps his greatest call of all time - the now infamous Hobnail Boot call. 

It was classic Munson. 

Georgia entered the game 2-1. The Vols were undefeated and climbing in the rankings after a 26-18 win over No. 14 LSU. Tennessee was considered an 11.5-point favorite to beat Georgia again. The Vols had only lost to Georgia once since the 1980s, and had not lost to the Dawgs in Knoxville since Herschel Walker’s first game. 

At first the game looked like it would be what everyone expected - a solid win for Tennessee. By the end of the first quarter the Vols were up 14-3. But Georgia used Damien Gary’s 72-yard punt return for a TD as part of back-to-back scores to take a 17-14 lead. The teams traded field goals after that, and deep into the fourth quarter Georgia was winning 20-17 with only 1:21 left in the game. 

Then one of the most electric plays in Neyland Stadium history happened. Travis Stephens took a screen pass 62 yards for a touchdown. 

“When Tennessee scored on that screen - it was deafening,” remembered former Georgia offensive lineman Jon Stinchcomb. "It felt like the field was vibrating it was so loud. You couldn’t hear anything - obviously. That place gets crazy loud. That play was a real dagger.”

As Neyland rocked and rolled, Larry Munson was in the dumps. 

“Hearts fall down here with 44 seconds to go,” Munson grumbled. “That kind of stuff will take a lot out of you sometimes, and just take the whole season with it. But that we will have to find out. The stadium just literally exploded.”

The explosions weren’t over that afternoon. 

“Some stupid miracle could still happen,” Munson added.

That miracle might have been Randy McMichael on the final drive of the game. What turned out to be the Hobnail Boot started with a squib kick the McMichael picked up at the UGA 34-yard line and got to the 41. 

“Tennessee squib kicked it, and Randy caught it to give us the field position,” former Georgia receiver Terrence Edwards said. 

Georgia needed to hustle, and it only had one timeout. But the Dawgs had the ball near midfield, and 42 seconds on the clock. David Greene went to work. First he found Damien Gary for 13 yards to cross midfield, and got the ball to the Tennessee 46. After an incompletion, Greene found McMichael for 26 yards. 

Georgia was off and running. 

"We started moving the ball and started clicking,” Greene said after the game. 

Munson was going nuts. 

“Look at us. We are trying to beak their hearts as they broke our hearts,” he said. “Great one-handed grab. McMichael tugging and pulling.”

Georgia needed a touchdown. A field goal, down four, would do no good. Georgia was at the 20-yard line. 

“David Greene back to throw AND WE CATCH IT ON THE SEVEN,” Munson screamed in describing another McMichael play.  

There were ten seconds left in the game, and Georgia could smell the paint from Tennessee’s checkerboard end zone. McMichael had become a star. 

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“Randy caught the pass over the middle for about 20 yards to set us up,” Edwards said. “Those two plays were just as big as Verron’s catch. Without out those two plays from Randy we don’t that - The Hobnail Boot doesn’t exist without Randy McMichael.”

“Randy is the one who won that game for all of us,” Stinchcomb added. “Randy is the playmaker - not taking anything away from Verron. It was a good play call. That was the Randy McMichael Show. He was everywhere. That was his marquee game. It put him on the national radar. That was huge.”

WE HAVE COME FLYING DOWN THE FIELD,” Munson screamed. “We are going to have one play to try to save ourselves. Remember we left our heart down on the other end of the field.”

The Dawgs called time, and Mark Richt was preparing to cement his legacy four games into a 15-year career. 

“Coach Richt was on the sideline, and he said: ‘We are going to go with P-44 Haynes’. Then he called us back,” Haynes remembered. “And he said: ‘Hey, Greenie, you will know right away. If they are playing quarters it will be there. If they come out in any other look throw it away, and we will call another play.’

“It was kind of a trick play,” Greene told reporters after the game. “We faked to the fullback (Haynes), and he slides out like he is going to block the middle linebacker."

The Dawgs were in their traditional road uniforms - red hats, white tops and Silver Britches. Greene and the rest of the Dawgs were getting ready to make history. The small section of Georgia fans, huddled near the corner of the end zone were holding their collective breaths. 

“Now we have one play to steal a win,” Munson said. “What in the world would you call now?”

Verron Haynes had worked his way up as a walk-on to being on the field on the final play of the game against the Vols. His family, many of them New Yorkers, had seen first hand the horrors of 9/11 weeks before. 

The call was P-44 Haynes.

“TOUCHDOWN. MY GOD A TOUCHDOWN!” Larry Munson proclaimed from high atop Neyland Stadium. 

“Time stood still. That ball stood up in the air for so long,” Haynes said. “I didn’t think it was ever going to come down. If there is a thing about being too open - you kind of want somebody there in your vicinity. I was there all alone.”

The Brox native said he remembered thinking about the ramifications of the play as it was happening. 

“You could either be in the outhouse or the penthouse, bro… catch the ball,” Haynes said. 

“Did you see what he did? David Greene just straightened up and we snuck the fullback over! We just stepped on their face with a hobnailed boot and broke their nose! We just crushed their face!”

“That was the great Larry Munson,” Haynes said. “His commentary was perfect. It just rolled off his tongue.”

Georgia’s 26-24 win was monumental, but not probable without McMichael’s plays. 

“Verron gets all of the praise, and deservedly so. He caught the pass. It was a great play call by Coach Richt. Randy’s two plays don’t get talked about enough,” Edwards said. 

“Verron making that catch and the silence (from a shocked Neyland crowd) - that was a big difference from a couple of minutes before,” Stinchcomb added. 

The game, which was part of a doubleheader on CBS, started at Noon. The Bulldogs got back to Athens earlier than usual for an away game, and they made good use of their time. 

“We got back to Athens pretty early to be able to go and celebrate, which I am pretty sure we did,” Edwards said. 

But not before Haynes ran into Munson on the way out of Neyland. 

“Larry Munson was getting interviewed - this was way after we had celebrated and everything,” Haynes said. “He was smoking a cigar. The interviewer asked him: ‘Mr. Munson, what is a hobnail boot?’ And he said: ‘The hell if I know.’”

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