KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — If you’ve watched AppleTV+’s hit show “Ted Lasso,” you’ve probably heard one of the football-turned-fútbol coach’s most prominent lines from Season 1:
"If God would have wanted games to end in a tie, she wouldn't have invented numbers."
Evidently, Tennessee (8-1-1) felt the same about its SEC opener against Auburn (7-2) on Thursday night.
Freshmen phenom Taylor Huff sliced a Jamie Tartt-esque goal to tie the score at 1 in the 85th minute, and Brooke Wilson followed suit in the second overtime to give the 17th-ranked Lady Vols a thrilling 2-1 win against No. 11 Auburn on Ted Lasso Night at Regal Soccer Stadium.
Tennessee leaned into the “Lasso” theme all night, too, transforming its home venue into the Knoxville version of AFC Richmond’s London home, Nelson Road.
Before the game, UT’s coaching staff handed cookies to fans outside the stadium gates.
It was the Tennessee version of “Biscuits with the Boss,” a classic Lasso bit referring to the time each morning when he shares “biscuits” — the British term for cookies — with AFC Richmond’s owner, Rebecca Welton.
The Lasso references didn’t stop there, though.
Tennessee also dispensed Lasso-themed orange visors, as well as T-shirts with Lasso’s signature “BELIEVE” sign in orange across the front.
The PA system also blasted “Ted Lasso” theme music throughout the night, and the team’s social media aided the effort with Lasso quotes before, during and after the match.
Regal Soccer Stadium featured a special “Ted Lasso” graphic on the video board, while the stadium emcee even dressed up as Lasso.
During the match, the Lasso impersonator walked around the stadium sporting a full mustache, a Southern twang and an AFC Richmond pullover. He also entertained the crowd with several Lasso-ish quotes.
One example: “I like pink lemonade. Makes my tongue all twitchy.”
And after Wilson’s winner, a Lasso favorite: “Barbecue sauce.”
He also hosted a halftime guessing game, as fans watched show clips and attempted to finish famous dialogue bits from the show.
Maggie Tipton, a Tennessee freshman, has watched “Ted Lasso” for about a year and mentioned her excitement when the team announced the theme for Thursday’s game.
“I was so excited,” she said. “I was like, ‘I have to be here.’ I haven’t been to a soccer game until tonight.’”
“It made me happy to be part of this environment, that’s embracing a show I really enjoy. It made me smile.”
The impact goes beyond emotion, though.
Throughout the show’s run, “Ted Lasso” already has been said to have moved the needle for Americans new to soccer — at least in terms of knowledge and appreciation for the game.
And Tipton is no different.
“I really didn’t know anything about soccer, and I learned so much through the show,” Tipton said. “It makes me actually kind of know what’s going on out here!
“It’s made me have a better time watching the game because I know some of the lingo. For my friends that are here, it’s helped them know more about soccer and helps them enjoy it more, too.”
Regardless of one’s level of fútbol knowledge, though, Tennessee’s initial struggles — and final exultation — were easy to spot.
After UT missed several golden opportunities early on Thursday, Auburn’s Olivia Candelino broke the stalemate in the 69th minute.
For 16 more minutes, it appeared that 1-0 score would go final.
And then Huff happened.
With less than five minutes remaining in regulation, the freshman launched a beautiful out-of-box arc that sailed through the fall air, squeezed over the outstretched hands of Auburn goalie Maddie Prohaska, and splashed into the top middle third of the net.
Huff’s tied the score at 1, notching her team-leading sixth goal of the season.
In response, Tennessee’s student section repeated the only chant imaginable on Ted Lasso Night: TAY-LOR HUFF, DO-DO, DO-DO-DO-DO!”
The yell was a direct mirror of the song that AFC Richmond fans chant for Jamie Tartt, the young “Ted Lasso” star who nailed a Cristiano Ronaldo-esque kick in Season 2.
“I mean they’re calling her the ‘freshman phenom,”’ said Wilson of Huff. “That’s the type of thing we see her do every day in practice, so it doesn’t really shock me. She’s good on both feet. It’s awesome to see her get a reward for all her hard work lately.”
Still, Tennessee wasn’t done — even after a gridlocked 10 minutes in the first overtime period.
Despite admitting that she’d never even heard of the show before Thursday’s theme night, Wilson waited until the second OT to echo Lasso’s thoughts on a tie.
She took a short assist from Mackenzie George in the middle of the box before rifling the game-winner into the right side of the net.
Then came the dog pile, as the Lady Vols celebrated their first win over Auburn since 2012.
Altogether, the sequence was a culmination of two of Ted Lasso’s core values: persistence and belief.
“Our forwards are constantly tapping on the door, tapping on the door,” Wilson said. “Mackenzie George was constantly getting down the defenders’ throat, and sometimes it’s just hard to get the ball in. So one of those had to go.”
“That's where this (win) came from is their resilience and their perseverance to finish the game and not take a step back,” echoed acting co-head coach Joe Kirt.
"Everything is a struggle in this league. Getting a win at home is massive. Coming from behind, it's huge. It's a great win for our program."
Now, Tennessee will look to carry that Lasso-esque energy into Missouri on Sunday.
First touch is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. ET, and the match can be seen on SEC Network.