How Tennessee's Darrell Taylor smothered Georgia Tech's 'walk-in' score
ATLANTA — Before Monday night, Darrell Taylor was mostly known for a hilarious hashtag.
After Tennessee’s wild 42-41 double-overtime win over Georgia Tech, the Vols’ redshirt sophomore defensive end created another viral moment, but not before playing the role of hero on final snap of the game.
Taylor smothered Georgia Tech’s two-point conversion try, slipping an initial block and meeting quarterback TaQuan Marshall in the hole to blow up the play and force an errant pitch, giving the Vols the win.
Afterwards, a stunned Taylor was caught having a bit of fun after the game-saving stop, mouthing, “I’m not going to class.”
Who could blame him, though?
Most other Tennessee students probably aren't either after the Vols pulled off their latest late-night Houdini trick in the last two years.
Tennessee should have lost the game Monday night. It allowed 535 yards on the ground — 249 yards and five touchdowns to Marshall. The counter-option was giving the Vols fits all night, but a Virginia native making his first-career start simply made a play.
“It’s a game that we should have won and we didn’t,” Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson said.
“That should have been a walk-in. We screwed up the play, so we didn’t deserve to win.”
Taylor had nine career tackles entering Monday night, but in the most extensive playing time of his career — he was on the field for the majority of Tennessee’s 96 defensive snaps — he had 13 stops.
His final quarterback hurry didn't go in the stat-sheet, but it saved Tennessee’s bacon in the end.
“That’s the best play I’ve made since I’ve been here,” he said.
After Marshall scored his fifth touchdown to pull Georgia Tech within one, Johnson immediately signed for his offense to stay on the field. Tech would call a timeout to setup the play, and Tennessee returned the favor after assessing the formation.
Taylor said the two quick breaks allowed him — and the rest of the defense — to get an extra breather and diagnose the play.
Still, Georgia Tech believed it had the advantage. Johnson thought they called the perfect play. The Vols overloaded the right side, making them susceptible to the same counter-pitch that Marshall exploited for ridiculous yardage.
Only this time it didn't work.
Taylor sniffed out the counter-option from the snap, quickly shedding right tackle Will Bryan and meeting Marshall in the hole.
Wild pitch. Game over.
“I knew he was going to keep it,” Taylor said. "I just did what I had to do. I knew he was coming (my way). I found that second effort inside of me."