Antonio Wardlow (Photo by David Bergman)
Oct. 10, 2006
Click here to see a large image of the Sports Illustrated cover.
Tennessee redshirt freshman Antonio Wardlow made the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated magazine after his blocked punt and recovery for a touchdown highlighted a wild fourth quarter in Athens and a wild weekend in the SEC.
The Vols rallied from 17 points down to post a 51-33 victory over Georgia, climbing to eighth and ninth in the latest national polls at the season's midpoint. UT also jumped to first the SEC in scoring offense, first in passing offense and first in total offense.
"I actually think we're jelling as an offensive team," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I think we've been doing that for several weeks. We still need to be much more consistent in some areas and that's the truth.
"I know we're averaging good points and good yards but there are so many areas to improve as we prepare for these outstanding football teams we've got to play yet."
The Vols, 5-1 overall and 1-1 SEC, are averaging 35.2 points per game, 291.5 passing yards per game and 421.5 yards of total offense per game. Junior wide receiver Robert Meachem leads Division I-A in receiving yards per game (112.5), while junior quarterback Erik Ainge paces the SEC in three major categories -- pass efficiency rating (171.6), passing yards per game (276.2) and total offense per game (269.0).
Wardlow, meanwhile, made the most of his first big moment in the spotlight, breaking through the Georgia line for Tennessee's first blocked punt for a touchdown since Mark Levine turned the trick 11 years ago. The play was a signature moment in the Vols' 27-point fourth quarter that kept hopes alive for a big season.
"We'll find out if we're mature enough to handle it," Fulmer said of the national attention. "I don't think the players are going to pay much attention to it. We can beat every team on our schedule but they can beat us too if we don't play well and improve.
"That's just the truth. I think they do better when you tell them the truth."
Tennessee has the weekend off before hosting Alabama on Oct. 21 in a 3:30 p.m. Eastern time kickoff. The Crimson Tide, 4-2 and 1-2 SEC, is home to Mississippi on Saturday. Another game of interest to the Vols this weekend is Florida at Auburn. The Gators lead the SEC at 4-0 after consecutive home wins over Alabama and LSU, while Auburn dropped a 27-10 decision Saturday at home to Arkansas.