The long-awaited return of Lane Kiffin to Neyland Stadium ended in chaos as many in the crowd of over 102,000 tossed hundreds of bottles and other debris onto the field, causing a 25-minute delay and injuring some fans who were hit in the head by flying objects.
Tennessee still had a chance at a comeback in the final 54 seconds, but two final efforts to get into the end zone fell short. #13 Ole Miss, 5-1, escaped with a 31-26 victory.
The pandemonium started when referees ruled that Tennessee had fallen just short of the needed yardage on a fourth and 27 with time winding down. There was a delay to review the call and the ruling on the field stood.
That brought on the barrage onto the field, and it continued despite pleas over the public address system for the fans to halt and let the game finish.
UT cheerleaders, the dance team and the band all scurried off the field to safety.
As the debris fell, a golf ball struck the hip of Coach Kiffin, who drew the undying hatred of Vols fans in 2010 when he departed after just one season to become the head coach at the University of Southern California.
When his Ole Miss squad ran onto the field, he was met by a deafening chorus of boos. He responded with a wave and then a shrug of his shoulders.
Before and after the game, he declined to criticize the UT fans, praising their passion for the game and the remarkable venue that is Neyland Stadium.
The game might have been called, but UT had three timeouts remaining with Ole Miss with the ball. The visitors quickly went three and out, punting to Velus Jones who ran it back 40 yards and put the Vols in business for a possible dramatic last-minute drive to pay dirt.
As the potential comeback played out and with the band hidden away in the Neyland tunnels, "Rocky Top" had to be piped in to the PA system.
Quarterback Hendon Hooker got the ball downfield and in range for the dramatic finish. But he had been hobbling before, and he fell to the ground after trying to walk back to begin the next play. He lay on the ground for several minutes before finally being helped off. He did not put any weight on his right leg as he was escorted to the sidelines.
Joe Milton, the lanky former Michigan quarterback, engineered a first-down pass. He fired a shot into the back of the end zone that was just out of the reach of Cedric Tillman, who had run for a TD earlier in the contest.
With three seconds left, Milton could find no Vol receiver open and he was finally pushed out of bounds, ending the hopes of Vol fans to vanquish Lane Kiffin.