VOL. 132 | NO. 5 | Friday, January 6, 2017
Dobbs Had a Great Run, But Manning is Still No. 1
BY DAVE LINK, Knoxville Sports Correspondent
Tennessee senior Joshua Dobbs has created a quarterback controversy. Dobbs finished his college career Dec. 30 when UT beat Nebraska 38-24 in the Music City Bowl in Nashville. He accounted for 409 total yards – 291 passing and 118 yards rushing – and was chosen the game’s MVP.
Joshua Dobbs had the misfortune of bad timing, joining the Vols as they were rebuilding. His running ability helped him climb to No. 3 on the Vols’ all-time total yards list behind Peyton Manning and Casey Clausen.
(Ruth Dudley/Tennessee Athletics/UTsports.com)
With three rushing touchdowns against Nebraska, Dobbs had 12 for the season, breaking the single-season record by a quarterback (11) he shared with Heath Shuler.
Dobbs had 3,777 total yards this season – second most in a single season behind Peyton Manning’s 3,789 in 1997 – and would have broken the record if not for dropped passes in the bowl game.
Dobbs completed his UT career with 9,298 total yards – third best in UT history behind Manning’s 11,201 yards from 1994-97 and Casey Clausen’s 9,707 yards from 2000-03.
Therein lies the quarterback controversy.
Where does Dobbs rank among UT quarterbacks in the past 50 years? Let the debate begin.
Here is my top 10:
1. Peyton Manning (1994-97)
Record as starter: 39-6-0 (.867)
Peyton haters won’t like this pick because he never beat Florida. I get it. Going 0-for 3 against the Gators is painful.
As a freshman in 1994, Manning was the third-string quarterback behind Jerry Colquitt and Todd Helton at the start of the season. Colquitt suffered a season ending injury in the opener.
Helton was the starter the next three games – including the 31-0 loss to Florida in the third game – and Manning took over as the No. 1 QB when Helton was hurt in the fourth game against Mississippi State.
After wins over Washington State and Arkansas in Manning’s first two starts, UT lost to No. 10 Alabama 17-13 on Oct. 15 for Manning’s first loss. UT (8-4, 5-3 SEC) won its last five that season, including a 45-23 win over Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl.
In 1995, No. 8 Tennessee led No. 4 Florida 30-14 late in the first half, but the Gators scored 48 consecutive points on their way to a 62-37 win in Gainesville. It was the only loss that season for UT (11-1, 7-1 SEC, second in East Division), which beat Ohio State 20-14 in the Citrus Bowl.
Manning threw four interceptions against Florida in 1996 when the No. 4 Gators held off the Vols, 35-29. In the same game, Manning threw for a school-record 492 yards and four TDs as UT rallied from a 35-0 deficit, but you can’t forget the picks.
The Vols were upset by Memphis 21-17 on Nov. 9, but finished 10-2 in 1996, 7-1 and second in the East, and beat Northwestern 48-28 in the Citrus Bowl.
Manning returned for his senior season in 1997 for several reasons: to beat Florida, win the Heisman Trophy, win the SEC and win the national championship. UT lost to Florida 33-20 in Gainesville on Sept. 20, but won the SEC East with a 7-1 record.
However, Manning didn’t win the Heisman (It went to Michigan’s Charles Woodson). And after the Vols beat Auburn 30-29 in the SEC championship game, they lost to Nebraska 42-17 in the Orange Bowl in Manning’s final game.
Manning set the UT single-season passing record for yardage (3,819) and touchdown passes (36) in 1997. He holds UT career records for completions (863), total yards (11,020), passing yards (11,201), TD passes (89), and attempts (1,381).
Even though he didn’t beat Florida, Manning is No. 1.
2. Condredge Holloway (1972-74)
Record as starter: 23-9-2 (.705)
Imagine if Condredge Holloway played in Tennessee’s zone-read option offense of today.
The Huntsville, Alabama, native was ahead of his time when he came to UT and became the first black quarterback to start an SEC football game. On any down, Holloway could turn a pass play into a big run gain with his prolific scrambling ability.
OK, so his record as a UT starter wasn’t that great. Neither were the Vols during Bill Battle’s tenure as head coach from 1970-76 (59-22-2).
Holloway’s got the best interception-to-attempt ratio in UT history with 407 passes and just 12 interceptions.
He’s 12th on UT’s list for career yardage with 4,068 yards – 966 rushing and 3,102 passing – in three seasons. NCAA rules didn’t allow freshmen to play until 1972.
His sophomore season with the Vols was the team’s best. In 1972, the Vols (10-2, 4-2 SEC) lost to Auburn and Alabama, but beat LSU 24-17 in the Astro Bluebonnet Bowl.
UT was 8-4, 3-3 in the SEC in Holloway’s junior year with SEC losses to Alabama, Georgia, and Ole Miss, and finished the year with a 28-19 loss to Texas Tech in the Gator Bowl.
In Holloway’s senior year, Tennessee (7-3-2, 2-3-1 SEC) bounced back from a season-ending tie against Vanderbilt by beating No. 10 Maryland 7-3 in the Liberty Bowl.
Holloway also was a star shortstop for Tennessee’s baseball team from 1973-75, but longtime UT fans remember him for the gridiron, not the diamond.
3. Andy Kelly (1988-91)
Record as starter: 24-5-2 (.790)
Andy Kelly was a star quarterback at Rhea County High School in Dayton before arriving at UT as a freshman in 1988 as a backup to Jeff Francis.
By midseason of 1989, Kelly had replaced Sterling Hinton as UT’s starting quarterback. UT went 10-1 in the regular season – its only loss was to Alabama 47-30 in Birmingham – and finished in a three-way tie for the SEC title with a 6-1 record.
Kelly’s 84-yard TD pass to Stanley Morgan was a highlight of the 31-27 win over No. 10 Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. The Vols finished No. 8 in the nation.
Kelly threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns in UT’s 1990 opener when it tied eventual national champion Colorado, 31-31. He threw for 399 yards and two TDs in a 34-29 win over No. 1 Notre Dame in Neyland Stadium on Nov. 10.
UT (9-2-2, 5-1-1 SEC) finished in a three-way tie in the SEC and went to the Sugar Bowl. Kelly threw for 143 yards on 14-of-18 passing in the fourth quarter as the Vols beat previously unbeaten Virginia, 23-22.
Nobody can forget UT’s Miracle at South Bend in 1991. Kelly was the quarterback. The Vols rallied from a 31-7 deficit for a 35-34 win over Notre Dame as Kelly threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead score to Aaron Hayden.
It was the highlight of the year, when UT went 8-2 in the regular season with back-to-back losses to Florida and Alabama. The Vols, 5-2 in the SEC, lost to Penn State 42-17 in the Fiesta Bowl in Kelly’s last game.
Kelly finished his UT career as the program’s passing leader in every major category, but Manning surpassed his records in the next few years.
Kelly is sixth in career total yardage (6,427) and sixth in career passing yards (6,392).
4. Casey Clausen (2000-03)
Record as starter: 34-10-0 (.773)
Casey Clausen embraced the Manning legacy when he came to UT from Northridge, California.
His 34 wins are second best for a UT starting quarterback behind Manning’s 39 wins. Known for his calm, cool demeanor, “The Iceman” Clausen posted a 14-1 road record as the starting quarterback.
As a freshman, Clausen was a backup in preseason behind Joey Matthews and A.J. Suggs, who started the opener against Southern Miss. After five games, the Vols were 2-3 and UT coach Phillip Fulmer was ready for change.
In his first game, Clausen directed the Vols to a 20-10 win over Alabama at Neyland Stadium for UT’s sixth consecutive win in the series. UT won its five games with Clausen as the starter and finished 8-4 (5-3 SEC) after a 35-21 loss to Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl. Clausen was chosen to the All-SEC freshman team and several freshman All-America teams.
Clausen threw for 2,969 yards in 2001 as the Vols went 10-1 in the regular season and won the SEC East (7-1 with a 26-24 loss to Georgia). UT lost to LSU 31-20 in the SEC championship game, but in the Citrus Bowl, Clausen accounted for five TDs as the Vols beat Michigan 45-17.
In 2002, UT was ranked No. 3 in preseason, but fumbled away a 30-13 loss at Florida in a driving rain. Clausen was hurt the next week in a six-overtime victory against Arkansas, and missed the next game, an 18-13 loss to Georgia. He missed three starts in 2002 due to injury as the Vols finished a disappointing 8-5 after a 30-3 loss to Maryland in the Peach Bowl.
Clausen threw for 2,968 yards and 27 TDs as a senior in 2003, but the Vols lost back-to-back SEC games to Auburn and Georgia and finished 6-2 in the league. No. 6 Tennessee (10-3) lost to unranked Clemson 27-14 in the Peach Bowl in Clausen’s final game.
5. Joshua Dobbs (2013-16)
Record as starter: 23-12 (.657)
Why wasn’t Dobbs higher on the list? Timing. His career at Tennessee coincided with the brick-by-brick rebuild by Tennessee coach Butch Jones.
With UT’s victory in the Music City Bowl, Dobbs tied Holloway for wins by a starting quarterback (23), fifth in UT history. And Dobbs climbed up the record books despite being the starter for only two full seasons.
Dobbs finished his career with 9,298 total yards, third in UT history behind Manning (11,020) and Clausen (9,577). During the 2016 season, Dobbs surpassed Jeff Francis (5,900 career yards), Kelly (6,427), Tyler Bray (7,237), and Eric Ainge (8,473).
With 291 passing yards in the Music City Bowl, Dobbs moved into fifth place on the career list with 7,138 career yards in the air. He trails Manning (11,201), Clausen (9,707), Ainge (8,700) and Bray (7,444) on the career passing yards list.
Dobbs originally committed to Arizona State in June before his senior year at Alpharetta (Georgia) High. Not long after Jones was hired to replace Derek Dooley in December of 2012, Jones convinced Dobbs to switch his commitment to Tennessee.
As a freshman in 2013, Dobbs didn’t become the starter until the last month of the season when Justin Worley was injured. He went 1-3 as the starter in 2013 with losses to Missouri (31-3, Auburn (55-23), and Vanderbilt (14-10) and a win over Kentucky (27-14).
As a sophomore, Dobbs was third string for the first start of the season behind Worley and Nathan Peterman. However, Worley was injured again, and when Peterman faltered against Alabama on Oct. 25, Dobbs took over in the first half. He went 4-1 as the starter the rest of the season and was selected MVP of the TaxSlayer Bowl when the Vols beat Iowa, 45-28. UT finished 7-6 for its first winning season since 2009.
In 2015, Dobbs started all 13 games and the Vols went 8-4 in the regular season, 5-3 in the SEC. UT beat Northwestern 45-6 in the Outback Bowl. Dobbs rushed for a school-record for a quarterback with 671 yards, which he broke this year with the team-high 831 rushing yards.
We all know what happened in 2016. Tennessee was picked to win the SEC East Division, but finished 4-4 in the league and 9-4 with the bowl win.
In his last five games at UT, Dobbs threw for 1,260 yards, ran for 511 yards, and accounted for 19 touchdowns. His completion percentage during that span was 74.2 percent.
Dobbs finished with 2,160 career rushing yards – first on the list for a UT quarterback – after surpassing Jimmy Streater’s 1,374 early in the 2016 season.
On and off the field, Dobbs exemplified what Tennessee wants in a student-athlete.
6. Tee Martin (1996-99)
Record as starter: 22-3-0 (.880)
Tee Martin was the quarterback for Tennessee’s 1998 national championship team. Enough said.
Martin, of Mobile, Alabama, spent his first two seasons with the Vols as the backup to Manning. His junior season was magical for the Vols and their fans.
Tennessee went 13-0 in 1998, won the SEC with an 8-0 record, beat Mississippi State 24-14 in the SEC title game, and beat Florida State 23-16 in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl for the national title.
In his first game as the starting quarterback, Martin completed just 9-of-26 passes for 143 yards at No. 17 Syracuse, but moved the No. 10-ranked Vols into field-goal position with time running out. Jeff Hall kicked a 27-yard field goal as time expired for a 34-33 win.
UT broke a five-game losing streak to No. 2 Florida the next week with a 20-17 overtime win. Hall kicked the go-ahead field goal in overtime, and Florida’s Collins Cooper missed.
The Vols beat Auburn 17-9 on Oct. 3, but lost tailback Jamal Lewis for the season to a knee injury. UT was an underdog the next week but won at No. 7 Georgia, 22-3.
Tennessee had another scare Nov. 14 when it fell behind Arkansas 21-3 in the first half. The Vols rallied for a 28-24 win.
In the SEC championship game, the Vols were held to 249 total yards, but Martin threw two TD passes in the win over Mississippi State.
Martin’s 79-yard touchdown pass to Peerless Price in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl was one of the most memorable TDs in UT history. It gave the Vols a 20-7 lead and helped secure the win and national championship.
Martin’s 24 consecutive completions in the 35-18 win over Alabama in 1998 is a school record. So is his 95.8-percent completion percentage on 23-of-24 passing in the 49-14 win over South Carolina.
Martin threw for 2,164 yards and 19 TDs with six interceptions in 1998 and completed 57.3 percent of his passes.
As a senior, Martin took the three losses of his starting career: to Florida 23-21 on Sept. 18; to Arkansas 28-24 on Nov. 13; and to Nebraska 31-21 in the Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl.
Martin is eighth on UT’s list for career yardage (5,206), and his .880 winning percentage as a starting quarterback is tops on UT’s list.
7. Erik Ainge (2004-07)
Record as starter: 27-10-0 (.730)
Erik Ainge was Oregon’s 2003 Gatorade Player of the Year when he signed with UT out of Glencoe High in Hillsboro, Oregon.
During his first two seasons at UT, Ainge split time at quarterback with Rick Clausen, younger brother of Casey Clausen. Rick Clausen played his first two years at LSU and last two at UT (2004-05).
As a freshman in 2004, Ainge threw for 1,452 yards – second-best for a UT freshman – despite playing only nine games and starting six. He suffered a separated shoulder against Notre Dame on Nov. 6 and missed the last four games due to the injury.
UT’s 2005 season was a disaster with Ainge and Clausen splitting time at quarterback.
The Vols were ranked No. 3 starting the season and went 5-6, 3-5 in the SEC, and were unranked after an Oct. 29 loss to South Carolina.
Ainge threw for only 737 yards in eight games, five as the starter.
Ainge flourished as the fulltime starter in 2006, when he set UT’s season record for completion percentage (67.0, surpassing Daryl Dickey’s 64.9 in 1985). He threw for 2,989 yards – second in the SEC in passing yards per game (249.1 and third in total offense (240.6) – and 19 touchdowns.
He missed most of two games with an ankle injury.
The Vols, however, lost three of their last five games in 2006, including a 20-10 loss to Penn State in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl.
Ainge started all 14 games in 2007 when the Vols won the East Division with a 7-1 record and lost to LSU 21-14 in the SEC championship game. UT finished 10-4 after a 21-17 win over Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.
Ainge threw for 3,522 yards as a senior, which is third best for a Vol behind Manning’s 3,819 in 1997 and Bray’s 3,612 in 2012.
He finished his career with 8,700 passing yards, third behind Manning’s 11,201 and Casey Clausen’s 9,707.
8. Heath Shuler (1991-93)
Record as starter: 19-5-0 (.792)
With Andy Kelly’s career as UT’s starter coming to a close, Vol fans thought they might have another star right behind him in Heath Shuler of Bryson City, North Carolina. He was Kelly’s backup in 1991 and took over as starter the next season.
UT won its first five games in 1992 and climbed to No. 4 in the nation, but faltered the next three weeks with losses to Arkansas (25-24), Alabama (17-10), and South Carolina (24-23).
UT won its last three games of the regular season and finished 5-3 in the SEC, and with a 38-23 win over Boston College in the Hall of Fame Bowl, was ranked No. 17 in the final AP poll.
However, the 1992 season was one of coaching turmoil with Fulmer taking over for Johnny Majors. Regardless, Shuler threw for 1,712 yards and 10 touchdowns with four interceptions.
Tennessee’s 1993 season was one of the best ever for a Vol offense. UT averaged 441 yards and 39 points per game on its way to a 9-1-1 record and tied for first in the SEC East with a 7-1 record.
The Vols (10-2) lost to Penn State 31-13 in the Citrus Bowl, and later was credited with a win when Alabama was forced to forfeit a 17-17 tie on Oct. 16.
Shuler’s 2,353 passing yards in 1993 ranks 11th best in school history; his 4,088 yards for his career ranks 10th; and his 4,472 total yards ranks 10th.
How good was Shuler in ’93? He was second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Charlie Ward of Florida State, was the SEC player of the year, and was chosen third in the 1994 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins.
9. Bobby Scott (1968-70)
Record as starter: 20-3-0
Bobby Scott came to UT from Rossville, Georgia, outside of Chattanooga, and went 11-0 in Neyland Stadium as the Vols’ starting quarterback.
At the time, freshmen didn’t play varsity football, so Scott’s first action as a Vol was as a backup to Bubba Wyche during the 1968 season. Scott threw four touchdowns that season, including one in a 36-13 loss to Texas in the Cotton Bowl.
In 1969, Scott won the starting job and threw for 1,352 yards and 12 touchdowns as UT went 9-2 and won the SEC championship with a 5-1 record.
However, the ’69 season was notable for the two losses. First, the Vols lost to Ole Miss 38-0 on Nov. 15 when Manning’s father, Archie, was the quarterback for the Rebels. It was UT’s worst loss since a 51-7 defeat to Vanderbilt in 1923. Then the Vols lost to Florida, 14-13, in the Gator Bowl, in Doug Dickey’s last game as UT’s coach.
Bill Battle was UT’s coach in 1970, Scott’s senior season. The Vols lost to Auburn 36-23 on Sept. 26 in the second game – which cost them the SEC championship – but reeled off 10 consecutive wins to end the season. UT finished No. 4 in the nation after a 34-13 win over Air Force in the Sugar Bowl.
Scott threw for 1,697 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior. His 32 career touchdown passes is tied for eighth with Martin on UT’s list.
In an odd twist, Scott was drafted in the 14th round of the 1971 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints and played 10 seasons as the primary backup to Archie Manning.
10. Jeff Francis (1985-88)
Record as starter: 20-12-1
Jeff Francis of Parkridge, Illinois, was a backup to Tony Robinson and Daryl Dickey as a freshman when the 1985 “Sugar Vols” finished 9-1-2 with a 35-7 win over No. 2 Miami in the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl.
It proved a tough act to follow.
With Francis taking over as starting quarterback, UT lost five of its first seven games. The Vols won their last five, including a 21-14 win over Minnesota in the Liberty Bowl, and finished 7-5 overall, 3-3 in the SEC. Francis threw for 1,946 yards and nine TDs with six interceptions, completing 64.4 percent of his passes.
Tennessee had its best season with Francis at quarterback in 1987.
Francis threw for 1,512 yards and the Vols finished 10-2-1 overall after a 27-22 win over Indiana in the Peach Bowl. UT was 4-1-1 in the SEC for third place.
Tennessee started the 1988 season 0-6 with losses to Georgia, Duke, LSU, Auburn, Washington State, and Alabama. Francis played a big role in the Vols’ five-game winning streak to end the season, finishing with 2,237 passing yards and 13 touchdowns.
Francis threw for 2,237 yards in 1998 and is seventh on UT’s list of career passing yards (5,867) and seventh in career total yards (5,900).
Dave Link is a freelance journalist living in Knoxville.