Nov. 7, 2013
Each Thursday, Brian Rice will take a look back at the Lowe's #DefiningMoments. This week, A rivalry renewed in Neyland Stadium.
By Brian Rice
Tennessee and Auburn had one of the great rivalries in the history of the Southeastern Conference before expansion ended he yearly meetings between the teams following the 1991 season.
The teams played every season from 1956-91, but the Tigers visit to Neyland Stadium on Oct. 2, 1999 was their first since that 1991 game. The meeting capped a three year renewal in the rivalry that started with the 1997 SEC Championship Game and continued with a meeting on the Plains in 1998.
Tennessee entered the game with a 2-1 record, ranked ninth in the country, and the crowd felt a little extra juice for the primetime game as the newly-installed Jumbotron on Neyland Stadium's south end told the 106,000-plus that Florida had lost by a point to Alabama, meaning UT was right back in the SEC East race two weeks after a loss to the Gators ended the nation's longest winning streak at 14.
Auburn entered with a new head coach, Tommy Tubberville, who had to roll out a first-time starter at quarterback in front of the then-largest crowd that a Tiger team had ever played in front of. Tennessee quickly welcomed redshirt freshman Jeff Klein to big time college football.
The first play of the game saw Klein throw a quick screen pass to his right, and Deon Grant was there to pick it off and return it 20 yards for a touchdown. The crowd exploded and let Tubberville and Klein know it was going to be a long evening on Rocky Top.
"We didn't do a lot to puzzle (Klein)," said Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer. "We played more zone and didn't pressure him as much because of their misdirection plays, which they were able to beat us on a few times."
"We wanted to start fast and be focused tonight," Grant said. "We were down defensively the past couple of weeks, but we weren't playing Tennessee football. We were focused now. Of course we wanted the shutout. Any defense wants the shutout, that's what we play for every game."
After the initial score, Tennessee struggled to put the ball in the end zone, but Martin led the team on a late second-quarter drive that ended with an Alex Walls field goal with 13 seconds left in the first half and a 10-0 halftime advantage.
Jamal Lewis, who was lost to a torn ACL against the Tigers a year earlier, ran for 64 yards on 19 carries and caught three passes for 46 yards. The star of the ground game was Travis Henry, who carried the ball 13 times for 84 yards.
Henry went up the middle for a yard in the third quarter to make it a 17-0 game and score from 34 yards out in the fourth quarter to up the lead to the final 24-0 score.
Defensively, the Volunteers shined bright, intercepting three more Klein passes to preserve the shutout, the first for UT since blanking Vanderbilt in the regular season finale in 1998. The Tigers were shutout for the first time since the 1998 season opener. It was the first shutout in the series since a 42-0 Tennessee win in Auburn in 1980.