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GAME 8: Vols Look to Play Spoiler Against Undefeated Crimson Tide
TENNESSEE-ALABAMA SERIES HISTORY & NOTES
Alabama leads the all-time series with the Vols 45-38-7. The series is knotted at 20-20-1 in Knoxville, and Phillip Fulmer boasts a 11-4 record over the Crimson Tide dating to the 1993 season, including seven-straight from 1995-2001. The series has bounced back-and-forth recently after being full of streaks through much of the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Tennessee won in 2003, 2004 and 2006, while Alabama claimed victories in 2002, 2005 and 2007. Prior to their win streak from 1995-01, the Vols did not capture a win in nine tries dating to 1986. Tennessee won four-straight from 1982-85, and Alabama won 11-straight from 1971-81.
Three Vols hail from the state of Alabama--Carson Anderson (Florence), Wes Brown (Athens), and Willie Bohannon (Mobile). Brown has started all seven games for the Vols at defensive end and has posted 22 tackles and three TFLs.
Tide linebacker's coach Kevin Steele played for Tennessee under Johnny Majors from 1978-79 and stayed on as a student coach in 1980 and a graduate assistant coach in 1981. He coached the outside linebackers in 1982, and then after stints at New Mexico State and Oklahoma State, returned to Knoxville to serve as UT's defensive backs coach from 1987-88.
MISSISSIPPI STATE WIN PUTS TENNESSEE IN ELITE COMPANY
Tennessee's 34-3 win over Mississippi State was Phillip Fulmer's 150th triumph as Tennessee's head coach, allowing him to join Gen. Robert R. Neyland (173) as just the second Vols coach to reach that victory plateau. UT stands alongside Michigan as the only schools with two different coaches owning 150-plus victories at their respective school. Bo Schembechler (194) and Fielding Yost (165) passed the 150-win mark during their tenures for the Wolverines.
Tennessee also is one of just five schools with three different coaches owning at least 100 victories in the program, Johnny Majors having captured 116 wins during his Vols career. Other schools are Oklahoma with four different coaches and Southern California, Georgia Tech and Michigan with three apiece.
VOLS TIED FOR FIRST NATIONALLY WITH 14 INTERCEPTIONS
Through eight weeks of NCAA play, Tennessee ranks tied for first nationally among FBS teams and first in the SEC with 14 interceptions. The Vols are averaging two interceptions per game and 22.7 yards per return.
Seven different Vols have recorded picks thus far, but sophomore safety Eric Berry and senior cornerback DeAngelo Willingham lead the way with five and three interceptions, respectively.
BERRY NEW SEC CAREER LEADER IN INTERCEPTION RETURN YARDS
Tennessee strong safety Eric Berry continues to tear up record books, but last week he moved on from the Tennessee book to the Southeastern Conference book. His 72-yard interception return for a touchdown vs. Mississippi State gave him 397 career interception return yards, which was good enough to claim the top spot in the SEC record book from Bobby Wilson of Mississippi. He is now just 122 yards from the NCAA record held by Terrell Buckley of Florida State.
His record-breaking return vs. the Bulldogs helped earn him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. It was his 10th career pick and his fifth of the season. He has returned two for touchdowns, with the first one coming on a 96-yard return at Florida in 2007.
Berry has also now picked off a pass in three-straight games, making him the first UT player to do so since Jonathan Hefney during the 2006 season.
THREE MEMORABLE VOL PERFORMANCES vs. ALABAMA
In Tennessee's 90 previous clashes with Alabama, there have been many memorable individual Vol performances. Here are three of note:
SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST: Casey Clausen, 2003
Casey Clausen led the Vols to an epic five-overtime victory against the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 25, 2003. Clausen led the Vols on an 86-yard drive in the final two minutes to tie the game at 20. He went 7-of-9 on the drive, which ended in a 1-yard touchdown pass to Troy Flemming with 25 seconds left in regulation. Then in the fifth overtime, Clausen scored the game-winner on a quarterback sneak, giving the Vols a 51-43 victory.
GRAHAM CRACKS THE TIDE: JAY GRAHAM, 1996
Jay Graham ran the ball 14 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns as the Vols defeated Alabama 20-13 in Knoxville. The first of Graham's touchdowns came on a 5-yard run with 9:41 remaining in the fourth quarter and tied the score at 13. He then scored the game-winning touchdown on a 79-yard run to put the Vols ahead 20-13 with 2:17 left in the game. The run was his career-long, passing his previous long run, a 75-yarder for a score in 1995, also against Alabama. It was Grahams' 13th 100-yard game in his career, and the second time that he eclipsed the century mark that season.
JONESING FOR A PICK: DALE JONES, 1985
In the final moments of the Vols' 16-14 victory over the Crimson Tide in Birmingham on Oct. 19, 1985, Dale Jones made the play that sealed the win, intercepting a Mike Shula pass at midfield after the Tide had scored a touchdown with 11:16 left and appeared to have momentum on their side. Jones finished the game with seven total tackles, a forced rumble, fumble recovery and the interception.
STEPHENS A DEVELOPING DEEP BALL THREAT
Sophomore quarterback Nick Stephens is just three starts into his collegiate career, but he has already started to develop an identity as a threat with the deep pass. In three starts this season, 17 of Stephens' 33 completions have been for more than 10 yards and eight of those have been for more than 20 yards.
He has completions of 43, 45, 52 and 60 yards to his credit as well.
At Georgia, seven of his 13 completions went for 15 yards or more, and vs. Northern Illinois two of 10 completions went for more than 40 yards. He also connected on a
42-yard bomb as the backup vs. UAB.
VOLUNTEERS APPROACHING 775th ALL-TIME VICTORY
One of the winningest college football teams in America, Tennessee is just one win shy of notching its 775th all-time victory.
Since the program's inception in 1891, UT has recorded 774 total victories. The Volunteers will become the ninth team ever (and second SEC team) to reach the 775-win milestone.
AYERS GETTING STRONGER AS SEASON ROLLS ON
Senior defensive end Robert Ayers has come on strong for the UT defense in the last two games. He was named a permanent team captain before the Mississippi State game and responded with his first sack of the season. He was named a game captain at Georgia Oct. 11, and the Clio, S.C., native enjoyed a career day between the hedges.
Ayers logged a career-high nine tackles against the Bulldogs, including a career-high 3.5 TFL. That marks the most TFL in a single-game since current San Francisco 49ers linebacker Parys Haralson recorded four against Kentucky in 2005.
Ayers also nabbed his first career interception last Saturday at Georgia, stopping a Bulldogs drive in the red zone. That takeaway led to a Tennessee touchdown.
Ayers led the Vols last season with 12 TFL, and his eight TFL this year lead the team and give him 24 for his career for a net loss of 91 yards.
WILSON LEADING SEC IN TACKLES
Senior linebacker Ellix Wilson leads the Southeastern Conference in tackles with 9.3 per game this season (56 in six games played).
After sitting out the Northern Illinois game Oct. 4 due to an injury, he returned at Georgia to log a career-high 16 tackles (he had 11 stops at the half). He followed that performance up with five tackles vs. Mississippi State.
His performance vs. Georgia put him over the 100-tackle milestone for his career.