Let's be honest: this is how we would have wanted the movie to end. Down by three, 21 seconds left in the game, on the road, in front of tens of thousands of screaming orange knuckleheads, after a QB with (unknown to us) a torn ACL in a brace led an almost 90-yard drive in just under four minutes - a drive which honestly featured two other plays that could have won this award.
So there we are. 2nd and 5. If it comes down to it, you can trust Carey Spear from here…we could tie it and take our chances in OT, but a field goal only buys us time. A touchdown means a probable 4-point lead, means the Vols have to go the length of the field with less than a minute, means a historic victory.
And who steps into the spotlight? The redshirt freshman QB.
There are 27,258 stories in the naked city of Maryville, Tennessee, in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains and the heart of Big Orange Country. Their quarterback led them to two state championships before deciding on North Carolina - only to realize at the very last minute that he'd rather be in his home state. So he quickly headed to Nashville, enrolled early, and spent a year running the scout team. Then, when the starter and backup both went down, he found himself leading a comeback against Georgia, then making his first start at Texas A&M, then delivering the first win in the Swamp since the Second World War…and then going back and forth with his mentor the starter throughout the UT game, until they reached the 4 yard line.
In the very same situation, the week before, they ran an old-school Harry Gilmer-style jump pass of the kind forgotten until Tim Tebow. It gave them an extra touchdown cushion against Kentucky that they didn't really need, but it put the idea in the minds of everyone from fans to commentators to the Tennessee coaching staff, and everyone was on guard in case he ran it again.
And because of that, in front of a crowd triple the size of his hometown, mere miles from where he grew up, Patton Robinette took the snap, faked the give to Wes Tate, rolled out to the right, gave a halfhearted upward hitch that froze the defense, and tucked the ball away as he galloped into the end zone for the touchdown. 16 seconds left. 14-10 lead. And then, 14-10 final. First win in Neyland since 2005. First back-to-back wins over the Vols since 1926. And from Knoxville to Nashville to the California coast, we all absolutely lost our minds.
With one fake jump-pass, Patton Robinette simultaneously delivered the win, kept Tennessee out of a bowl, made us look like a diabolically devious Jay-Z-grade Illuminati offense, infuriated the Vols into shutting off the scoreboard and the hot water, and served notice on the state and the nation that until the clock hits 0:00 and the echo of the final whistle fades, this Vanderbilt team will keep fighting and kicking and scratching and clawing until they are victorious. And that's good enough to make it the Play of 2013.
Counterpoint: Carey Spear ran right into the end zone (and our hearts) when the Commodores called a fake field goal against Georgia.