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Game Preview: SC vs. UT

Tennessee-S. Carolina Series History/Notes

Tennessee leads the all-time series with South Carolina 20-3-2, dating to 1903. The Vols have won 13 of their last 14 against the Gamecocks, but Carolina managed a 16-15 win in its last visit to Neyland Stadium (Oct. 29, 2005).

UT head coach Phillip Fulmer boasts a 13-1 career mark against South Carolina, including a 5-1 record in Knoxville.

Last year in Columbia, the Vols used 17 fourth-quarter points to notch a come-from-behind victory.

The Gamecocks are coached by Steve Spurrier, who owns a 10-6 career record against the Vols. Tennessee has beaten Spurrier in three of the last four games it has played against his teams.

Eight players on Tennessee’s 2007 roster—Robert Ayers (Clio), William Brimfield (Norway), Jake Brown (Conway), Sinclair Cannon (Greer), Jonathan Hefney (Rock Hill), DeAngelo Willingham (Saint Mathews), Justin Wright (Saint Stephen) and Eric Young (Union)—hail from the state of South Carolina. Hefney and Young have served as UT game captains this year and both have started every game this season. Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis is a native of Dillon, S.C.

Vols Lead FBS In Sacks Allowed

Tennessee’s offensive line has allowed just two sacks this season, and just one against starting quarterback Erik Ainge. Overall, the Vols have attempted 266 passes, meaning UT’s opponents are averaging one sack in every 133 attempts.

The Big Orange lead the nation (FBS) in sacks allowed, giving up a third of a sack per game (0.29). Three of Tennessee’s remaining opponents currently rank among the top 65 nationally in sacks; Vanderbilt ranks tied for 21st with 2.86 sacks per game; Kentucky is tied for 58th with 2.13 sacks per game; and South Carolina is tied for 62nd with 2.0 sacks per game.

The Vols’ outstanding pass protection—a credit to offensive line coach Greg Adkins and the depth of his unit—has given Ainge plenty of time to make good decisions when throwing the football. Ainge has thrown just four interceptions in 256 attempts this year. For his career, Ainge is averaging one interception every 32.7 pass attempts.

Ainge has amazingly attempted 253 straight passes without being sacked. His only sack this year came during the season-opener at Cal in what would have been his third attempt of the game/season.

Hefney Entering Final Showdown Against Home-State School

South Carolina native Jonathan Hefney is entering the twilight of his career as a Volunteer, and the senior free safety has put himself in position to have his name factor prominently in the Tennessee records books.

The Rock Hill native has started 43 consecutive games after not starting the first game of his career in 2004 against UNLV. Assuming Hefney stays in the starting lineup the rest of his career and UT goes to a bowl game, the 5-foot-9-inch senior will leave UT tied with former center Scott Wells (2000-03) for the most consecutive games started by a position player.

Hefney also has made his presence felt on special teams. The 2006 Randy Moss Return Man Award semifinalist is on track to become the first Vol ever to be the team’s primary punt returner four consecutive seasons. His 65 career returns put him in ninth place on UT’s career list, and his 553 yards put him just outside the top-10 on UT’s punt-return yardage charts.

Hefney—announced Monday as a 2007 Lott Trophy quarterfinalist—has been a ball-hawking safety since stepping on campus. His 10 career interceptions are tied for 13th-most in Tennessee history. Hefney also has amassed more than 250 career tackles. In three previous outings against the Gamecocks, Hefney has totaled 12 tackles and two interceptions.

Ainge Tied For 18th 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 is tied with former Florida signal caller John Reaves for 18th place in SEC history with 54.

Ainge joins a pair of former Volunteers on the SEC’s top-20 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 43 catches for 633 yards and three touchdowns this season. The Carencro, La., native is currently second in the SEC with 90.4 receiving yards per game and is third in the SEC averaging 6.1 receptions per game.
  • Rogers has 32 catches for 392 yards and one touchdown this season. The Nashville, Tenn., native averages 56.0 receiving yards per game and is eighth in the SEC with 4.6 receptions per game.
  • Briscoe has 31 catches for 243 yards and one touchdown this season. The Shelby, N.C., native is ninth in the SEC with 4.4 receptions per game.

Vol Defense Stout At Home

The Volunteers defense has been a mighty foe in its three games this season inside the friendly confines of Neyland Stadium.

In those home games, the UT defense on average gives up 324.7 yards per game, which is more than 80 yards less than its season average. The Vols’ rushing defense gives up 102.3 yards per game at home and has allowed only one rushing touchdown, compared to giving up an average of 191.8 yards and eight rushing touchdowns on the road.

The passing defense is also vastly improved at home, allowing just 212.3 passing yards per game. Tennessee has allowed only one opposing quarterback pass for more than 200 yards in Knoxville this season and has five of its six interceptions at home.

Overall, the defense has forced seven of its nine turnovers this season at home.

The Vols’ scoring defense also is stingier at home, allowing only 20 points per game—half of what they’ve allowed in four road games this season.

Foster Climbing UT's All-Time Rushing List

Junior tailback Arian Foster’s 139-yard performance against Mississippi State last weekend propelled him into the top 20 on UT’s all-time rushing list.

He currently ranks 16th in school history with 1,826 career rushing yards and needs just 264 yards to break into Tennessee’s all time top 10.

Foster is on pace to net 1,072 rushing yards this season. That would give him the 12th-best single-season total in school history.

And should his career average of 63.0 rushing yards hold steady throughout his career, Foster could make a serious run at Travis Henry’s school record of 3,078 career yards (1997-2000).

Fulmer vs. Spurrier: Vol. XIII

Saturday’s meeting marks the 13th battle between the two active coaches with the most wins in the SEC. The two titans of coaching have forged quite a path in the brutal conference, combining to win eight SEC Championships and two National Championships.

The first 10 SEC Championship Games featured either a Fulmer- or Spurrier-led team. From 1995-98 the two coaches combined to lead their teams to a record of 88-11 (.889), win four SEC Championships and two National Championships (Florida in 1996 and Tennessee in 1998).

For his career, Fulmer is 4-8 against Spurrier, but the Vols have won three of their last four against the Johnson City, Tenn., native.

Coker Getting Drives Off To Good Starts

Sophomore tailback LaMarcus Coker has been a force in the kick return game this season, having already set a UT single-game record with 207 return yards against Florida.

In five games played this season, Coker is averaging 25.61 yards per kickoff return, a mark good enough for fourth in the SEC. For the season, Coker has 18 returns for 461 yards which puts him on pace to set new UT single-season marks in both returns (28, Willie Gault in 1980) and yards (662, Willie Gault in 1980).

The speedy tailback is already climbing up UT’s career kick return charts. Coker is currently 10th all-time in return yardage with 641 and is only two kick returns away from being tied for 10th in career returns.

Coker took over the kick-return duties in the Florida game Sept. 15. Since, Tennessee’s average starting field position when Coker returns a kick is the 30-yard line. Six drives started by other Vols in those same four games have an average starting position of the 23-yard line.



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