Oct. 17, 2013
Each Thursday, Brian Rice will take a look back at the Lowe's #DefiningMoments. This week, a quarterback off to a slow start breaks through with the performance of a lifetime.
By Brian Rice
The Volunteers carried a perfect 6-0 record into Columbia to meet the Gamecocks for a Halloween matinee, and were looking to get out of Williams-Brice Stadium without any tricks. Tee Martin may not have come dressed as his predecessor at Tennessee, but the junior delivered a performance that rivaled any from Peyton Manning and set an NCAA record in the process.
Martin held down the starting quarterback job after Manning's departure, but through six games many fans still weren't convinced. Martin was 51-119 (.428) for 782 yards and nine touchdowns. He had thrown for more than 200 yards just once, against Houston, and had two games with fewer than 70 passing yards, completing seven passes for 64 yards against Florida and five passes for 68 yards against Auburn.
After Tennessee recovered a USC fumble at midfield on the game's opening drive, Martin started his day by hitting Peerless Price for 10 yards on a screen pass on the Vols' second offensive play. He completed another pass to Price on the drive before connecting with Jermaine Copeland for a 21-yard score to go 3-3 on the opening drive.
The hot start rolled on as the game did. Martin's 2-yard pass to Cedric Wilson in the second quarter made it 14-0. Price bookended the halftime break with TD catches, pulling down a 14-yard score :15 before the half and a 71-yard pass on UT's second play of the second half. As the numbers kept piling up on the field and the scoreboard kept spinning off of it in UT's favor, fans and players alike began to realize something special was happening.
Manning's Tennessee record of 12 consecutive completions fell late in the second half. Martin kept throwing. Copeland caught balls to tie the SEC and NCAA marks for consecutive completions. Another pass to Price on a crossing route late in the third quarter broke the NCAA record. Martin completed his first 23 passes, a single game SEC and NCAA record, and set new records for total consecutive completions with 24, after completing his final pass against Alabama a week before. His 24th pass a play later sailed just high over the head of David Martin, and would be his final of the day. His 96.0 completion percentage was also a UT, SEC and NCAA record.
"He's 7-0," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "He's new at it, he's getting accustomed to it and while I don't think you should ever expect too much from a young quarterback, you should expect consistency. He's done that. He had a great day today."
Martin finished the day 23-24 for 315 yards and four touchdowns. His first 300-yard game would prove to be the turning point in his season. Martin would throw for over 200 yards on four more occasions on the year en route to Tennessee's second-consecutive SEC championship and first consensus National Championship since 1951.
The NCAA records stood until 2011, when Dominique Davis of East Carolina was a perfect 26-26 in a 38-35 win over Navy. Martin still holds the SEC record for consecutive completions, but was passed on completion percentage by LSU's Rohan Davey, who was 11-11 against Western Carolina in 2000.