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GAME 7: Vols Open Second Half of Season at No. 1 Alabama
Series History: Alabama holds a 48-36-7 advantage in the all-time series dating to 1901, but the series is tied at 4-4 in games played in Tuscaloosa. Tennessee's last win at Alabama was a 51-43, five-overtime thriller in 2003.
Last Meeting: Tennessee failed to capitalize on early Alabama mistakes and was eventually worn down defensively in a 29-9 loss at Neyland Stadium last season. The Vols scored one touchdown and Daniel Lincoln kicked two field goals in the loss.
Streaking No More: For much of its history, the UT-Alabama rivalry has been characterized by long winning streaks, but no team has won three straight since Tennessee won seven in a row from 1995-2001.
Vs Top-Ranked Foes: Tennessee takes on its second top-ranked opponent of the season as Alabama moved to No. 1 in the Associated Press Poll on Oct. 18.
Vs No. 1: Tennessee is taking on a team ranked atop either Coaches or AP Poll for the second time this season and the ninth time in program history. The Vols are 2-7 all-time in those games.
October is Important: Tennessee plays the third of a four-game stretch through the month of October that is critical to its bowl hopes. The Vols dropped a close game vs. Auburn to open the month, but rebounded with a convincing win over Georgia a week later. They have contests remaining at Alabama and vs. South Carolina. Against its October opponents, Tennessee has won just 51 percent of its games all-time. UT's has won 74 percent of its games against its November opponents.
On Oct. 24: Tennessee is 11-2-2 all-time on Oct. 24 and has not lost on that date since 1924. The Vols last game on Oct. 24 was a 35-18 drubbing of Alabama in 1998.
A win would: A win would put the Vols over the .500 mark for the first time since winning the season opener. It was also mark Lane Kiffin's first win over a ranked team and give the new head coach a 2-1 mark vs. UT's three biggest rivals.
A loss would: A loss would put the Vols below .500 for the third time this season and give Tennessee its first three-game losing streak in the series since 1990-92.
Vol Network 'StadiumCast' Set For 89.7 FM
The Vol Radio Network's "StadiumCast" frequency for Tennessee's game versus the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday will be 89.7 on the FM dial. Fans attending the game can tune into the Vol Network broadcast at the stadium by bringing a portable radio. The "Kickoff Call-In Show" begins coverage at 2 p.m. EASTERN / 1 p.m. CENTRAL on Saturday.
Hardesty Among SEC's Top Backs
Senior tailback Montario Hardesty is the feature back in UT's offense after three seasons as a backup. In six starts during the 2009 season, Hardesty has produced rushing efforts of 160, 89, 96, 140, 90 and 97 yards and scored six rushing touchdowns, one in each game.
The New Bern, N.C., native is averaging 112.0 yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry. He currently ranks 12th in the nation and fourth in the SEC in rushing yards per game. He is on pace for 1,344 rushing yards in 2009.
Hardesty has reeled off 23 runs of 10 yards or more, including five 20-plus yard treks and touchdown runs of 39 and 43 yards. His six rushing touchdowns rank second in the SEC.
He became the 27th back in school history to eclipse the career 1,500-yard mark with a 140-yard effort vs. Ohio and now ranks 20th in school history with 1,718 yards. Hardesty has scored 19 career rushing touchdowns, which ranks 14th in program history.
Hardesty rushed for 1,046 yards in his first three seasons and worked primarily as a goal line back in 2008, scoring six touchdowns.
Thanks in large part to Hardesty, the Vols are rolling up an average of 183.7 yards per game on the ground and have scored 10 rushing touchdowns. The Vols rank fifth in the SEC and 35th in the nation in rushing offense.
Crompton Improved in Last Two Games
Senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton has made strides in his last two games after struggling through the three of the first four contests this season.
Through four games, Crompton had completed 62 of 105 passes for 641 yards for a .590 completion percentage and 160. 25 yards per game. He threw seven touchdown passes and eight interceptions. In his last two games, the Waynesville, N.C., native has completed 40 of 70 passes for 569 yards and six touchdowns vs. just one interception.
In just his last five quarters, Crompton has completed 68.8 percent of his passes (33-of-48) for 491 yards and six touchdowns. His quarterback rating through four games was 114.20, and in the last two games it is 150.85.
Crompton was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week and AT&T All-American Player of the Week for completing 20-of-27 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns vs. Georgia.
Vols Finding Big-Play Potential
Tennessee has produced six plays of 20 yards or more in each of the last two games, and five of those 12 plays have gone for touchdowns.
Excluding the Western Kentucky game, Tennessee was averaging 2.6 plays of 20 or more yards per game entering the Auburn contest.
The Vols also developed some explosiveness vs. Georgia, scoring on drives of three plays or less three times. In the Vols' previous four games, they produced only one touchdown drive of three plays or less, and that came off a UCLA turnover in its own red zone.
Re-Worked O-Line Protecting QB
After three games, the Tennessee offensive line underwent a makeover that saw Cory Sullins
step in at left guard in place of an injured Vladimir Richard
and Aaron Douglas
take over at right tackle in place of Jarrod Shaw
In the three games since, the Vols have surrendered just two sacks, but none in the last two games. In those three contests, the Vols also posted an average of 163.3 yards per game on the ground compared to 116 yards per contest in the Vols' second and third games of the season.
The Vols rank 16th nationally in sacks allowed with six through six games and 35th nationally in rushing offense with 183.67 yards per game.
Tennessee's current starting lineup features only two returning starters in Chris Scott and Jacques McClendon who have combined to start 51 games in their careers. The other three starters have played in just 24 career games and have 12 starts between them.
Brown Continues to Impress
Complementing senior tailback Montario Hardesty
in the UT backfield is true freshman Bryce Brown
, who signed with Tennessee as the No. 1-ranked recruit in the nation in the 2009 class.
This season, Brown has carried 55 times for 250 yards and two touchdowns, good for an average of 4.5 yards per carry. He has also shown flashes as a pass-catcher with eight catches for 105 yards and a score.
Brown scored his second-career touchdown on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter of the Georgia game and led the Vols in receiving yards for the second time vs Ohio, producing 116 yards of total offense (56 rushing, 60 receiving) in the contest.
Through six games, Brown has 62 offensive touches for 355 total yards, good for a 5.7-yards per play average.
Jones Becoming Threat at Receiver
Junior wideout Gerald Jones
has overcome an ankle injury suffered in preseason camp and made himself the Vols' top wide receiver threat through six games.
Jones caught just three passes in his first three games of the season after sitting out the Western Kentucky game due to injury. In the last two games, Jones has caught 12 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
He set a career high for receptions with seven in the Auburn game and a career high for receiving yards with 105 in the Georgia game. He was Tennessee's first 100-yard receiver in 15 games.
Stocker Emerging as Favorite Target
Junior tight end Luke Stocker
has six catches for 114 yards in the last two games. On the season, Stocker has 10 catches after making only 13 grabs a season ago.
He is leading all Tennessee receivers at 14.7 yards per catch and has scored two touchdowns after not scoring at all in 2008.
Stocker has also contributed to UT's big-play success in the last two contests has he has two catches of more than 20 yards, one in each of contest.
Kiffin's Defense Making Mark Each Game
Through six games, the Tennessee defense ranks 10th nationally in passing defense and 13th nationally in total defense. The Vols are surrendering 161.8 passing yards per game and 272 total yards per game. The Vols also rank third in the SEC in tackles for loss with 40.
The cumulative stats through six games are impressive , but the UT defense has had something else to hang its hat on in each game this season.
Western Kentucky: Allowed 83 yards of total offense and posted 12 tackles for loss and five sacks.
UCLA: Did not allow the Bruins a first down on six of 13 possessions.
Florida: Posted eight tackles for loss and three sacks while holding Gators to lowest passing yardage total of the season.
Ohio: Held Ohio to just 21 total rushing yards and one rushing yard in the first half
Auburn: Held Tigers to their then-lowest point total of the season and allowed just two touchdowns, fewer than any other team has surrendered this season
Georgia: Did not allow Bulldogs into the red zone and surrendered just 85 total yards in the second half.
Vols Dominant in Fourth Quarter
Through six games, the Tennessee defense is allowing an average of 62 yards per game and 2.1 points in the fourth quarter. The Vols have allowed just 13 points to be scored in the fourth quarter while scoring 66.
The Vols opened the season by playing 49 fourth-quarter minutes without allowing a point before surrendering a field goal to Ohio. After giving up a touchdown and a field goal to Auburn in the final frame, the Vols returned to form vs. Georgia and held the Bulldogs to 76 total yards and no points.
Youth Being Served on Defense as Well
Tennessee has played at least four true freshmen on defense in each of the last three games. Safety Janzen Jackson has started five contests this season, while defensive tackle Montori Hughes and linebacker Greg King are also seeing significant snaps on defense.
Jackson is seventh on the team in tackles with 22, while Hughes has eight total stops including two for a loss. King missed the Georgia game with an injury but played well at Florida and vs. Ohio and Auburn. He has eight tackles and one TFL this season.
McCoy Shining in Reveiz's Absence
Tennessee lost starting middle linebacker and team captain Nick Reveiz in the Ohio game and has seen weakside linebacker Rico McCoy step up in his absence. McCoy led the team in tackles for the third-straight game vs. Georgia, posting nine stops to go with a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry. The Washington, D.C., native posted a career-high 16 tackles a week earlier vs. Auburn and has led the team in stops 17 times in his career.
He leads the team at the halfway point with 53 stops after posting 87 a year ago. His 53 tackles (8.8 per game) rank fourth in the SEC as well.
Berry A Standout in New Role
Junior defensive back Eric Berry entered the 2009 campaign in search of the school record for career interceptions and the NCAA record for career interception return yards, but a change in coordinators has forced Berry into a new role playing closer to the line of scrimmage.
While Berry is second nationally among active players in interceptions with 13, he is also second on the team and seventh in the Southeastern Conference in tackles with 50, an average of 8.3 per game. He is also tied for third on the team in tackles for loss with 4.5 for eight yards. In his first two seasons, Berry averaged six stops per game and 5.25 tackles for loss per season.
He tied his career high with 14 stops vs. Auburn, and has posted three double-digit tackle games this season and seven in his career.
He got back into his big-play act vs. Georgia, posting a 46-yard fumble return that set up UT's final score. He has 101 career fumble return yards on three returns.