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A Record Final Act for Miller

Dec. 1, 2013



By: Brian Rice
UTSports.com

Rajion Neal wasted no time cracking the 1,000-yard mark on Saturday night and did it style.

The senior needed just 10 yards coming into the game, and took his first carry on the night 60 yards for a touchdown on the game's second play.

"It felt good," Neal said of the run. "It was on my mind all week. To get it the way that we did and to keep the momentum that we had, it was perfect."

Neal finished the night with 134 yards on 20 carries, his fifth 100-yard game of 2013. He finished the season with 1,124 yards, the most since Montario Hardesty ran for 1,413 in 2009. Neal is the first Tennessee back to rush for 1,000 yards since Tauren Poole in 2010, the first since Hardesty to accomplish the feat in 12 games, as Poole completed his mark in the 13th game.

The carry gave Neal his 12th touchdown of the season, the most by a Vol back since Hardesty in 09. He more than doubled his career output in 2013, entering the season with seven rushing scores.

"It was big," said Neal of getting on the board early with the 60-yard TD. "We definitely wanted to establish the run game early. All week we had been talking about dialing that up and the guys up front blocked it perfectly. They sprung me loose and all I had to do was run."

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Defensive linemen at the University of Tennessee have long been measured by how they stack up to some of the greats in Vol history. Corey Miller's final night in orange and white will be remembered along some of those great players and great performances.

On Tennessee's final defensive play of the night, Miller broke Reggie White's single-game sack record, finishing the night with 4.5 sacks after pulling down Maxwell Smith just shy of his end zone to end the game with a sack-fumble, the final exclamation point in the Vols victory.

"To be able to break an individual's record like Reggie White, that's something very, very, very special," head coach Butch Jones said. "A mentality to get the the quarterback, that 63 mentality that we talk about. There's a lot of sacks that are opportunity sacks, the other defensive end doing his job, and forcing the quarterback to push the pocket. I thought it was a great team effort up front."

Miller was excited about the record, but it wasn't something he set out to do in the game. He didn't know it was close going into the final drive. In fact, he didn't know at all until he walked into the locker room to the congratulations of his teammates.

"I'm speechless about it," Miller said about the record, adding that breaking a mark set by someone like White, whose number 92 stands retired above the field at Neyland Stadium made it even more special. "You never think that something like that to happen, especially in the last game of your career. I went back to some of the guys that were able to help me like A.J. (Johnson) with the pass rush that helped free me up."

Not only did the play give Miller the record, it effectively ended the game. Miller hit Smith high, forcing a fumble that was recovered by fellow senior John Probst at the UK 3-yard line. A pair of kneel downs later, the Volunteers had their first road win since 2010. Miller credited Johnson with creating the play.

"The was A.J'.s play," Miller said. "We called a certain play where he comes down and picks the center and I just had to step to the left and wrap up. I shook his hand after the play."

Johnson said the impact Miller made lifted the whole defense.

"He was just making plays, getting to the quarterback. That helped our defense tremendously," Johnson said. "Sacks change the whole game. I'm just so happy for him to go out in his final game and breaking Reggie White's record."

The record on the final play of his career was special, but it didn't ease the emotion that he felt walking off the field for the final time as a Volunteer.

"The sack record didn't change it a bit," he said of his emotions after the clock ran out. "The only thing that was on my mind was that I was sad that my career at Tennessee was over. I had maybe a two-second cry, but Marlon Walls pulled me aside and I was able to enjoy the rest of the time with my guys."

 

 

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