Nov. 1, 2009
BY DREW EDWARDS
When Tennessee took the field Saturday night to face South Carolina wearing black jerseys for the first time since 1921, fans inside Neyland Stadium reacted with surprise.
And that wasn't entirely limited to fans, either.
But nearly everyone aside from those involved with the football program and UT athletic director Mike Hamilton had no idea about the Vols' plans until Saturday. And many didn't find out until the team took the field.
Hamilton granted permission Wednesday and contracted a local manufacturer to produce the jerseys. Hamilton approved the change Friday night after seeing the jerseys for himself.
"I try to be an athletic director that's receptive to our student-athletes," Hamilton said.
UT coach Lane Kiffin said they had an effect.
"It's a players game, and our players had been begging for them for a while," Kiffin said. "I think it gave us some energy."
Linebacker Rico McCoy, for one, liked the change.
"They had the whole team hyped," he said. "They definitely energized the team."
Just don't look for the black jerseys again anytime soon.
"Our colors are orange and white," Hamilton said. "Introducing black jerseys for this unique game should in no way be interpreted as a move away from our traditional colors."
Another Big Day for Big Dan: Defensive tackle Dan Williams continued a run of strong performances Saturday against the Gamecocks.
Williams finished with four tackles, including a sack. He also recovered a fumble and recorded three quarterback hurries.
Those performances are starting to add up, and they could pay dividends when the NFL Draft rolls around in April.
"It all starts with Dan," Kiffin said. "He's making himself a lot of money."
Do It All: Chad Cunningham handled all the kicking duties Saturday and made his first career field goal, a 39-yarder in the fourth quarter that put the Vols up 31-13.
Cunningham had an earlier attempt blocked, marking three straight blocked attempts for the Vols dating to last week's loss at Alabama.
Cunningham averaged 44.7 yards on his seven punts. South Carolina didn't have a return longer than 21 yards, although a touchdown was called back because of a block in the back behind the play.