Nov. 9, 2013
By Brian Rice
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Coming to the sideline in the second quarter, Butch Jones reminded Jacques Smith to act like he had been there before. The only problem? He hadn't been where he just came from - the end zone.
Smith scored the first touchdown of his Tennessee career Saturday with an interception return for a touchdown to pull UT within a touchdown in the late goings of the second quarter.
The senior dropped back into coverage and picked off a low screen pass, one of just seven passes attempted by Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall on the afternoon. He credited the result of the play with the preparation he did this week.
"It was a read that I saw from on film and studying them," Smith said of identifying the play. "He gave me the key and I knew the play was happening immediately. As I went to go out, I saw the running back flash across my eyes, and that confirmed I knew what was happening, a slip screen, and the quarterback made a bad throw."
Smith pulled in the ball and returned it 18 yards for the touchdown. An emphatic spike of the ball after crossing the goal line resulted in a 15-yard penalty, hence the warning from Jones.
"He got into me a little bit," Smith said. "As a senior, setting an example for the younger guys I shouldn't have done that."
But nobody could really blame him for the celebration. Smith hadn't seen the end zone since high school, and had never scored a defensive touchdown at any level.
Fellow lineman Daniel Hood intercepted a pass earlier this season, but Smith's was the first INT return for a touchdown by a Tennessee lineman since Wes Brown's 25-yard pick-six in 2009. Brown's came on his final play at Neyland Stadium, Smith hopes to make a few more when he returns to face the Commodores on Senior Day in two weeks.
"Every momentum swing, we talk about we're responsible for creating our own opportunities and we create our own opportunity, and then just like that the momentum switches again," Jones said. "Jacques Smith made a great play and he was dropping in coverage in a fire zone and did a great job. Again, now we have to be able to seize that momentum and capitalize."