GAME 4: Vols Head to the Plains to Face Auburn
TENNESSEE-AUBURN SERIES HISTORY & NOTES
Tennessee trails the all-time series with Auburn 25-21-3, dating to 1900. The Tigers have won the last three overall meetings in the series and hold a 6-2-1 all-time edge on The Plains. The Volunteers have won five of the last nine encounters.
Only three players on UT's roster (senior DB Antonio Gaines, senior FB David Holbert and senior LB Ellix Wilson) have ever played against Auburn.
UT head coach Phillip Fulmer owns a 3-3 career record against Auburn. The teams last met in the 2004 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, with the Tigers posting a 38-28 win.
Three players on Tennessee's 2008 roster--OL Carson Anderson (Florence), DE Willie Bohannon (Mobile) and DE Wes Brown (Athens)--hail from the state of Alabama. Brown is a starter at defensive end, and Anderson and Bohannon are both true freshmen. Condredge Holloway, Tennessee's assistant athletics director for student-athlete welfare and lettermen, is a native of Huntsville, Ala., and was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame earlier this year.
Auburn returns 48 lettermen and 15 starters from last season's 9-4 squad and are off to a 3-1 start this season under
10th-year head coach Tommy Tuberville.
TENNESSEE DEFENSE LIMITING DAMAGE FOLLOWING TURNOVERS
While Tennessee's offense has been hampered by turnovers through the first three games of the season, the Volunteers defense--under the tutelage of veteran coordinator John Chavis--has performed admirably in damage-control mode. The seven takeaways recorded by opposing defenses have resulted in only nine total points.
Not surprising, considering the stingy UT defense ranks among the top-30 FBS teams in four separate statistical categories, including total defense, rushing defense and pass defense.
VOLS HAVE RALLIED BEFORE FROM 1-2 START
It's not the easy way to go, but Tennessee under head coach Phillip Fulmer has managed success in the face of early season challenges.
The most recent example was last year's SEC Championship Game appearance for the Vols and 10-4 finish after beginning the year like this season at 1-2. The 1994 Vols went 1-3 to open Fulmer's second full season at the helm, but proceeded to win seven of their final eight for an 8-4 showing and Gator Bowl triumph over Virginia Tech in Peyton Manning's freshman campaign.
As for Tennessee's success rate after opening its SEC schedule with a loss, the Vols have started 0-1 in league play under Phillip Fulmer eight times in his 17 seasons. His 1997 squad went on to win the SEC championship, the 2007 team lost in the SEC title game and four other teams (1996, 1999, 2000, 2006) finished no worse than second in the Eastern Division.
VOLS TIED FOR 10TH NATIONALLY WITH SEVEN INTERCEPTIONS
Through four weeks of NCAA play, Tennessee ranks tied for tenth nationally among FBS teams with seven interceptions.
The Vols are averaging 2.3 interceptions per game and an average of 10.0 yards per return.
Five different Vols have recorded a pick thus far, but sophomore strong safety Eric Berry and senior cornerback DeAngelo Willingham lead the way with two apiece.
FOSTER IS SEC'S ACTIVE CAREER LEADER FOR CARRIES, RUSHING & ALL-PURPOSE YARDAGE
Tailback Arian Foster is the Southeastern Conference's active career leader in three separate offensive statistical categories.
The San Diego, Calif., native boasts a league-high 558 carries, 2,627 net rushing yards and 3,430 all-purpose yards.
Through his first three playing seasons on Rocky Top, Foster averaged 173 carries per year, 798 net rushing yards per year and 1,048 all-purpose yards per year.
THREE MEMORABLE VOL PERFORMANCES vs. AUBURN
In Tennessee's 49 previous clashes with Auburn, there have been several memorable Vol performances. Here are three of note:
OFFENSIVE FIREPOWER IN ATLANTA: PEERLESS PRICE & JAMAL LEWIS 1997: Wide receiver Peerless Price set career-highs for receptions (eight) and receiving yards (161) against the Auburn Tigers during the 1997 SEC Championship Game. In addition, Price scored two touchdowns on passes from legendary quarterback Peyton Manning. Also in that game, tailback Jamal Lewis set SEC Championship Game records with 127 rushing yards on 31 carries.
RUMBLIN', STUMBLIN' SHAUN: Shaun Ellis, 1998: Shaun Ellis was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts in the Vols' 17-9 victory over Auburn on Oct. 3, 1998. Tennessee scored 17 points in the first quarter with big plays, including one from Ellis in which he grabbed an errant pitch and rambled 90 yards for the game's first score. Ellis finished the game with four tackles, including one TFL. Like this week's contest, that 1998 game was televised nationally on CBS.
DOMINANCE & FLAIR IN THE DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD: Deon Grant, 1999: Vol defensive back Deon Grant had three interceptions, eight tackles and a broken-up pass in Tennessee's 24-0 triumph over Auburn on Oct. 2, 1999. He returned one of his three interceptions for a 20-yard touchdown on the first play of the game. It was the first time the Vols had scored on an opening play since Peyton Manning and Joey Kent hooked up for an 80-yard score on the first play of the 1995 Alabama game. All three of Grant's picks came in the first half. The broken-up pass came during a fake punt and also was a major play in the game.
TAYLOR RIDING RECEPTIONS STREAK; RANKED FIFTH IN SEC IN RECEIVING YARDS PER GAME
If he catches a pass against Auburn, senior wide receiver Lucas Taylor will move into a tie for seventh-place on UT's all-time list for consecutive games played with a reception with 18.
He has caught a pass in 17 straight games played entering the clash with the Tigers and has totaled 88 receptions during that span.
The Carencro, La., native is averaging 64.3 receiving yards per game so far this season to rank fifth in the SEC.
DEFENSE HANGING TOUGH THROUGH FIRST THREE GAMES
The Tennessee defense is doing its part through three games this season. The Vols have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher, and the highest single-game team rushing total for a UT opponent this season is just 147 yards (Florida). The front seven is surrendering just 2.96 yards per carry and 94.7 net rushing yards per game, which ranks 26th among FBS schools.
The Vols have given up an average of just 268.7 of total offense per game, which ranks 22nd nationally. Tennessee allowed Florida just 243 yards of total offense, which is lowest single-game total for the Gators against UT since the 1990 game between the rivals.
Tennessee's pass defense is allowing just 5.67 yards per attempt and 174.0 yards per game, and the Vols have seven interceptions through three games.
VETERAN OFFENSIVE LINE PAVING THE WAY
The Tennessee offensive line came into the season with a reputation for protecting the quarterback. This year they are showing that they also can provide running lanes for their tailbacks.
The Vols have rushed for 539 yards on 106 attempts this season (5.1-yard average). That mark is good enough for sixth in the SEC.
This is a product of talented running backs but also an offensive line that boasts 102 combined starts. Josh McNeil has started 26 consecutive games; tackles Ramon Foster and Chris Scott each have started 17 straight games; and guard Anthony Parker has started the last 29 games he's played (he missed the 2007 Outback Bowl due to injury). Jacques McClendon is the "inexperienced" Vol of the group--he's only started UT's last nine games.