DALLAS (Jan. 2, 2005)- Tennessee took the first drive of the game in for a touchdown and never looked back, forcing five turnovers en route to a 38-7 win over Texas A&M in the 69th annual SBC Cotton Bowl Classic.
Offensive MVP Rick Clausen threw three TD passes and Cedric Houston and Gerald Riggs scored on runs of 12 and 9 yards, respectively, to pace the Vol offensive attack in the first meeting of the two schools since 1957.
Defensive tackle Justin Harrell, who forced a fumble and had a sack, was named the game's defensive MVP. The Vol defense forced four fumbles on the day, with defensive back Ryan Karl adding an interception.
"Today against a very fine offensive team, our defense really made a comeback from what it had been doing the last couple of games," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I'm proud of that."
Clausen, who completed 18-of-27 passes for 222 yards, threw TD passes to C.J. Fayton, Cory Anderson and Tony Brown and kept the Aggies off balance with an offensive attack totaling 474 yards, nearly equally divided between the pass and the run. Riggs had 102 yards on 18 carries, while Houston added 62 yards on 13 carries. The Vols held the ball for 40:22 on the day, with a school and Cotton Bowl record 32 first downs.
"We're very appreciative of Rick," Fulmer said. "It is a great story. He came in and validated himself here at the end of the year. He did as well as anybody could have asked for expected of any quarterback."
Fayton scored the Vols' first TD, taking a short pass from Clausen on the far side of the field and cutting back to the near side. Anderson earned the next TD with his grab near the end line. Houston and Brown scored in the second quarter, Houston scoring after Corey Larkins recovered a muffed punt and Brown grabbing a TD pass all alone in the far corner of the end zone to finish off a 67-yard drive. Riggs added a TD run in the third quarter and James Wilhoit booted a 37-yard field goal.
"We talked about being here, the great opportunity we had," Fulmer said. "I told them this is a tremendous bowl. To put the exclamation point on this season was extremely important."
A crowd of 74,704 saw the contest played on a warm, overcast day and the victory was the Vols' 24th in 45 bowl games.
UT - Fayton 57 pass from Clausen (Wilhoit kick).