Tennessee-MSU Series History/Notes
Tennessee leads the all-time series with Mississippi State 26-15-1, dating to 1907. The Vols own a 4-4 record in Starkville, and UT head coach Phillip Fulmer boasts a 4-1 career mark against the Bulldogs.
The Vols have won their last four games against MSU, and a Tennessee victory Saturday would tie for the longest such streak in the series by either team (UT won five straight from 1925-34).
The 42 games in this series have been spread among four different cities, including Starkville (eight games), Knoxville (19 games), Memphis (14 games) and Atlanta (the 1998 SEC Championship Game, which UT won 24-14).
Bulldogs head coach Sylvester Croom has never beaten a team from Tennessee. In his only previous game against a Volunteer State school, his Bulldogs lost at Vanderbilt 31-13 on Oct. 2, 2004.
Four players on Tennessee’s 2007 roster—Josh McNeil (Collins), Xavier Mitchell (Long Beach), Victor Thomas (Olive Branch) and Casey Woods (Starkville)—hail from the state of Mississippi. Second-year tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Mate Luke is a native of Gulfport, Miss.
Numerous Bulldogs Staffers Have Tennessee Ties
Three members of Sylvester Croom’s Mississippi State football staff were raised in the state of Tennessee, and three also boast previous experience on Rocky Top.
Running backs coach Rocky Felker was born in Jackson, Tenn., offensive line coach J.B. Grimes hails from Memphis, and coordinator of football operations Brad Pendergrass is from Huntingdon, Tenn.
Pendergrass was a recruiting and operations assistant at UT from the mid-90s through 2003. Mississippi State assistant head coach/offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Woody McCorvey served as an assistant coach at Tennessee from 1999-2003, working with running backs. And MSU wide receivers coach Pat Washington coached UT’s receivers from 1995-2005.
Only two Bulldogs players are from Tennessee, but junior MSU punter Blake McAdams was a high school teammate of UT offensive tackle Ramon Foster at Ripley High School in Ripley, Tenn. McAdams’ father, Johnny McAdams, is the head football coach at Ripley and lettered at UT as a defensive tackle in 1981 and 1984.
Ainge Virtually Unscathed Thanks To O-Line Play
Tennessee’s offensive line has allowed just two sacks this season, both of which have come in separate road games.
With the Vols having attempted 192 passes on the year, that means UT opponents are averaging one sack in every 96 attempts.
The Big Orange lead the nation (FBS) in sacks allowed, giving up less than half a sack per game (0.40). And interestingly, only three of Tennessee’s remaining opponents currently rank among the top 75 nationally in sacks; Vanderbilt ranks tied for 40th with 2.40 sacks per game, Kentucky is tied for 51st with 2.17 sacks per game and Mississippi State ranks tied for 62nd with 1.83 sacks per game.
The Vols’ outstanding pass protection—a credit to offensive line coach Greg Adkins and the depth of his unit—has given quarterback Erik Ainge plenty of time to make good decisions when throwing the football. Ainge has thrown just two interceptions in 185 attempts this year. For his career, Ainge is averaging one interception every 32.4 pass attempts.
Lincoln Off To Best Start By Kicker In UT History
Tennessee placekicker Daniel Lincoln continued his sparkling debut to college football last Saturday against Georgia, converting all five of his extra points to keep his perfect season to date intact.
A redshirt freshman from Ocala, Fla., Lincoln has made all eight of his field goal attempts this year and is 21-of-21 on PATs to lead the Vols in scoring with 45 points. Lincoln has been consistent no matter the distance, having converted three kicks from the 20- to 29-yard range, three from the 30s and two from the 40s, including a 47-yarder against Southern Mississippi.
Ainge Nearing Top 20 On SEC's Career TD Passes List
Senior quarterback Erik Ainge is on track to hold a prominent place on the SEC’s all-time chart for career touchdown passes.
Ainge needs just one passing touchdown to tie former LSU signal caller JaMarcus Russell for 20th place in SEC history with 52.
In doing so, Ainge would join a pair of former Volunteers on that elite list. Peyton Manning (1994-97) ranks second in SEC history with 89 touchdown passes, and Casey Clausen (2000-03) ranks seventh with 75.
2005 Wide Receivers Signees Coming of Age
Tennessee wideouts Josh Briscoe, Austin Rogers and Lucas Taylor were all members of UT’s 2005 signing class. Their collective impact on the Vols’ offense had been minimal prior to this season, but they have been clutch thus far in 2007.
- All three players have already set new career-highs for catches and yards.
- Taylor has 30 catches for 432 yards and two touchdowns this season. The Carencro, La., native is currently ranked third in the SEC with 86.4 receiving yards per game and six receptions per game.
- Rogers has 25 catches for 312 yards and one touchdown this season. The Nashville, Tenn., native is ninth in the SEC with 62.4 receiving yards per game and seventh in the SEC with five receptions per game.
- Briscoe has 26 catches for 197 yards and one touchdown this season. The Shelby, N.C., native is sixth in the SEC with 5.2 receptions per game.
Through five games, this year’s trio can be compared favorably to last season’s top three receivers of Robert Meachem, Jayson Swain and Bret Smith. At this point last season, the 2006 receivers had accounted for 62 catches for 1,086 yards and 11 touchdowns. This year, Taylor, Rogers and Briscoe have accounted for 81 catches for 941 yards and four touchdowns.
Special Agent McKenzie
First-year Vol Nevin McKenzie has proven to be a terror on special teams through Tennessee’s first five games.
A junior transfer from San Antonio who arrived on Rocky Top via Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College, McKenzie has recorded 15 tackles on the year. Eight of those—more than half—have come on special teams.
The Vols’ special teams tackles leader, McKenzie logged three special teams stops last Saturday against Georgia. He is now averaging 1.6 special teams tackles per game.
McKenzie began the season as a defensive back but was moved to linebacker following the Vols’ third game.
Vols Minimizing Penalties
Tennessee leads the SEC and ranks tied for eighth nationally (FBS) with just 39.2 penalty yards per game this season. Only nine teams in the country are averaging less than 40.
The Vols have been penalized a total of 26 times (5.2 per game) for 196 yards.
Tennessee’s opponents are averaging 48.0 penalty yards per game (33 penalties for 240 yards). Mississippi State commits close to seven penalties per game for an average of 61.7 yards.
19 Vols Have Made UT Debut This Season
A total of 19 Vols have made their Tennessee debuts so far this season. Included in that group are nine true freshmen: starting defensive back Eric Berry, tailback Lennon Creer, linebacker Savion Frazier, wide receiver Gerald Jones, defensive end Ben Martin wide receiver Denarius Moore, defensive back Dennis Rogan, wide receiver Brent Vinson and defensive end Chris Walker.
The other Vols who have taken the field for the first time in Orange & White this year are: punter/kicker Chad Cunningham, fullback Ryan Hill, placekicker Daniel Lincoln, defensive back Nevin McKenzie, wide receiver Kenny O’Neal, linebacker Nick Reveiz, tight end Luke Stocker, offensive lineman Cody Sullins, linebacker LaMarcus Thompson and defensive back DeAngelo Willingham.