DID YOU KNOW?
Saturday's game against No. 6 Florida presents the Vols with an opportunity to beat a ranked opponent for the 100th time in the history of Tennessee football. Tennessee currently owns 100 wins over ranked teams, however, a 17-17 tie with Alabama in 1993 was later forfeited to UT; the Vols have actually only beaten a ranked foe 99 times on the field.
SERIES HISTORY & NOTES
There's no easing into the conference schedule for either of these teams in a series that has become a highlight of the Southeastern Conference slate each September. Florida travels to Neyland Stadium to face rival Tennessee in the SEC opener for both squads Saturday.
The Vols lead the all-time series 19-16, but the perennial SEC East favorites have split the last eight meetings, with the Gators taking the last contest 16-7 in Gainesville to give head coach Urban Meyer a win in his first try against the Vols.
UT won the last meeting in Knoxville in thrilling fashion, coming from behind in the fourth quarter and knocking off No. 11 Florida with a 50-yard James Wilhoit field goal with six seconds left in the game.
UT coach Phillip Fulmer is 5-9 against the Gators all-time, and 3-4 against Florida in Knoxville.
This series recently has been dictated by the running game, as the team with the most rushing yardage has won 14 of the last 16 meetings (UF won in 2000 and 2002 despite being outgained on the ground). Over the last five games in this series in Knoxville, Tennessee has averaged 130.6 rushing yards per game while Florida has averaged 80.8.
The 2006 UT roster features five players from the Sunshine State: Michael Crain (Jacksonville), Demetrice Morley (Miami), Daniel Lincoln (Ocala), Vladimir Richard (Sunrise) and Quintin Hancock (St. Augustine).
TENNESSEE 8-6 UNDER FULMER IN CONFERENCE OPENERS
Under head coach Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee owns an 8-6 mark in SEC openers, including wins in two of the last three conference lidlifters. Of those eight victories, three have come against Florida.
The Vols average 24.5 points per game in SEC openers with Fulmer at the helm. Meanwhile, UT's opponents average 22.1 points per game in those contests.
AINGE PACING NATION IN PASSING EFFICIENCY
Tennessee junior quarterback Erik Ainge set a new career-high for passing yardage for the second time in as many games this season by totaling 333 passing yards during UT's 31-30 win over Air Force last Saturday. He currently ranks first among all NCAA Division I-A signal-callers with an impressive 226.63 passer efficiency rating.
Ainge has completed 35 of 47 passes this season for 624 yards and seven TDs to just two interceptions. Against Air Force, he completed 15 consecutive passes at one point. His first five TD tosses this year came on just 28 pass attempts.
MEACHEM RANKING AMONG NCAA'S TOP RECEIVERS
After a pair of two-TD, 100-yard outings, Tennessee junior wide receiver Robert Meachem ranks second among all NCAA Division I-A players with 148.5 receiving yards per game this season. His four TDs place him in a national tie for ninth place on this year's Division I-A scoring list.
Meachem is averaging 22.8 yards on 13 total catches this year. His 182 receiving yards against California were a career-best. For his career, he has 67 receptions for 1,139 yards and 10 TDs in 26 games played.
TREMENDOUS PROTECTION ALONG OFFENSIVE FRONT KEY TO UT'S PASSING SUCCESS
When assessing the early-season success of the Vols' passing game, one must not overlook the performance of Tennessee's relatively young offensive line. Despite returning just one player with more than five career starts (OT Arron Sears), UT's offensive line has allowed no sacks all year (49 passing attempts).
In the season-opener Sept. 2, Tennessee faced a California front seven that was touted by numerous national analysts as among the most dangerous in the country. However, the Vols had no plays for negative yardage in that contest while scoring 35 points against the then-No. 9-ranked Golden Bears.
VOLS OFFENSE A DRIVING FORCE
During last weekend's victory over Air Force, Tennessee put together two of the most impressive drives by a Southeastern Conference team so far this season.
The Vols set SEC season-highs for plays in a drive (16) and drive length (99 yards) on two separate scoring charges. In the second quarter, UT authored a 16-play drive that covered 74 yards, lasted 7:39 and ended with a four-yard TD pass from Erik Ainge to Robert Meachem. Then in the third quarter, the Vols strung together an 11-play drive that covered 99 yards, used 5:39 of game clock and culminated in a three-yard scoring plunge by Montario Hardesty.
Such long, sustained possessions served as a fine complement to the quick-strike aptitude displayed by the Vols' offense in the
season-opener vs. California.
KEY DEFENSIVE STOP ON LATE-GAME 2-POINT CONVERSION ATTEMPT SEALS WIN FOR TENNESSEE; FIRST SUCH PLAY SINCE 1973
Tennessee defensive end Xavier Mitchell came up with a game-saving tackle last Saturday on what could have been a go-ahead 2-point conversion attempt by Air Force running back Ryan Williams. Williams scored on a 1-yard TD run to help the Falcons pull within one point, 31-30, with 1:35 remaining in the fourth quarter. Air Force then called a toss-sweep play that was foiled when Mitchell brought down Williams to preserve Tennessee's one-point edge. The Falcons then attempted an onside kick that was recovered by the Vols.
Prior to Saturday, the last time Tennessee stopped a 2-point conversion play to win a game came during the 1973 season. It was that year that UT stopped a Kansas conversion attempt to preserve a 28-27 victory against the Jayhawks in Memphis.
WILHOIT SEC'S ACTIVE SCORING LEADER
Tennessee senior placekicker James Wilhoit bears the crown of the SEC's active scoring leader with 241 points. He also ranks sixth on UT's all-time career scoring list.
Wilhoit is 42-of-61 on field-goal attempts during his career and 115-of-117 on extra-point tries.
|2006 NATIONAL FOOTBALL AWARD CANDIDATES|
|Manning Award - Erik Ainge|
|Maxwell Award - Erik Ainge|
|Outland Trophy - Arron Sears|
|REGULAR-SEASON AWARD WINNERS|
|Erik Ainge ||(Sept. 2, California)|
O'Reilly Auto Parts National College Player of the Week
USA Today's National College Player of the Week
Wrangler (Sporting News) National College Player of the Week
(Sept. 9, Air Force)SEC Offensive Player of the Week
|Jerod Mayo ||(Sept. 2, California)|
CAREacter Star Athlete of the Week
SEC Defensive Player of the Week
VOLScholar of the Week
Walter Camp Div. I-A National Defensive Player of the Week
OPPOSING RUSHERS STRUGGLE TO HIT 100 AGAINST VOLS' TENACIOUS "D"
Tennessee has played 14 games since it last allowed an opposing ballcarrier to rush for at least 100 yards. That streak stretches all the way back to the 2004 SEC Championship Game, when current NFL standout Carnell "Cadillac" Williams racked up exactly 100 yards on 19 carries.
And since the 2004 league title game, the opposition's top ground-gainer has averaged 67.8 yards per game. Prior to Williams' 100-yard day, the last player to hit the century mark against Tennessee was UNLV's Dominique Dorsey (121 yards) in the 2004 season-opener.
Among the backs who recently came up short in their quest for 100 yards are such names as Ronnie Brown, Kenneth Darby, Joseph Addai, Thomas Brown, Darius Walker and Marshawn Lynch.
AINGE EARNS SEC PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONORS
Vols quarterback Erik Ainge earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors after completing 24 of 29 passes for 333 yards and three TDs in Tennessee's 31-30 win over Air Force Sept. 9.
The junior had a string of 15 consecutive completions against the Falcons, five of which converted third down plays. His 24 completions and 333 passing yards were both career highs.
Under Ainge's direction, Tennessee scored on its first five offensive possessions.
VOLS LOSE PAIR OF DEFENSIVE STARTERS FOR SEASON
Tennessee lost a pair of defensive starters to season-ending injuries suffered during the Air Force game. Below is a statement from UT Head Athletic Trainer Jason McVeigh regarding Inky Johnson and Justin Harrell (released Sunday, Sept. 10):
"Inky Johnson has sustained a severe injury to his right upper extremity. He underwent surgery to repair blood vessels and will require further surgery for nerve injury in the future. He is in stable condition at this time. He will not return to play this season. The family has requested that the media and fans respect his privacy during this time.
"Justin Harrell sustained a ruptured biceps tendon in the game Saturday. The injury will require surgery to be corrected. He will not return to play this season. It is anticipated that he will make a full recovery."
Junior starter Erik Ainge ranks first in NCAA Division I-A with a 226.63 passer efficiency rating this year ... He threw for a career-high 333 yards last weekend against Air Force on 24-of-29 passing and completed 15 straight passes at one point ... Ainge has seven TDs this season against just two INTs ... He needed just 28 passing attempts this season to throw his first five TDs ... Redshirt freshman backup Jonathan Crompton has played in one of UT's two outings.
Redshirt freshman TB Montario Hardesty stepped in for banged up sophomore starter Arian Foster, against Air Force, rushing for a career-high 72 yards on 19 carries and adding a TD rush of three yards ... Tennessee is averaging 4.0 yards per rush and 147.5 rushing yards per game after being held to just 79 net yards on the ground against the Falcons ... Senior FB Cory Anderson got his first touches of the year against Air Force, logging one catch and a rush.
Junior Robert Meachem enjoyed his second straight two-TD, triple-digit receiving yard outing, catching eight passes for 115 yards and a pair of scores against Air Force ... Meachem ranks second nationally with 148.5 receiving yards per game ... Senior Jayson Swain added a career-high six catches for 74 yards and one TD ... Swain and Meachem have each caught TD passes in both of UT's wins this season ... Sophomore Austin Rogers, making his first career start, recorded career-highs for catches (5) and receiving yards (69) vs. the Falcons, while fellow sophomore Lucas Taylor had a career-long 45-yard reception ... Tennessee is averaging 17.1 yards per catch this year.
The Vols' offensive front allowed no sacks for the second straight game during the Air Force victory ... The young unit's solid play has helped the Vols average 463.0 yards of total offense so far this season, which ranks third in the SEC behind 2006 opponents Florida and LSU ... Preseason All-America OT Arron Sears has made 25 consecutive starts.
Senior Turk McBride tied his career-high with nine tackles against Air Force ... DE Xavier Mitchell made the play of the game, stopping a potential go-ahead 2-point conversion with less than two minutes to play in the fourth quarter ... Preseason All-America DT Justin Harrell was lost for the season in the Vols' victory after suffering an arm injury ... Depth must develop quickly at the tackle position in order to help fill the void left by Harrell's loss ... Backups with playing experience include Demonte' Bolden, Dan Williams and J.T. Mapu (who logged his first tackle of the season during the Air Force game) ... McBride boasts the versatility to slide inside to tackle, while sophomore DE Robert Ayers' fine play could serve to boost his playing time.
Starting LBs Jerod Mayo and Marvin Mitchell each set new career-highs for tackles in the Air Force game with 10 and 12 stops, respectively ... Ryan Karl added seven tackles and two TFLs, including his first career sack ... Mitchell, Mayo and Karl rank second, third and fourth on the team, respectively, in total tackles so far this season.
Junior safety Jonathan Hefney tallied a career-high 17 tackles Saturday vs. Air Force, giving him the season lead on the squad with 21 stops on the year ... Starting DB Inky Johnson suffered an injury to his right upper extremity vs. the Falcons and will not return to action this season ... Tennessee's opponents are averaging 199.5 passing yards per game, including 14.8 yards per catch ... Talented sophomore Demetrice Morley is likely to see his playing time increase as a result of Johnson's injury.
Senior placekicker James Wilhoit tallied seven points against Air Force to move into sixth place on UT's all-time scoring list (241 points) ... Wilhoit made his first FG attempt of the season, nailing a 35-yarder vs. the Falcons ... Sophomore punter Britton Colquitt is averaging 41.4 yards on five punts this year, but attempted no punts during the win over Air Force ... Sophomore Austin Rogers is averaging 6.5 yards as the Vols' primary punt returner, and three different Vols have each returned one kickoff this season (for a team average of 9.5 yards per return) ... UT's opponents are averaging 5.3 and 21.8 yards on punt and kick returns, respectively.