The Auburn strong safety set an Auburn record and tied the SEC mark with four interceptions, the most spectacular performance of an evening filled with highlights for the Tigers on the way to a physically dominating 34-10 victory. That interception total had not been matched since 1939.
From the start to finish in the showdown of Top 10 teams, Auburn was the better team. It showed on offense, on defense and in the kicking game.
Rosegreen, who also recovered a fumble, personally accounted for five of the six turnovers the Tigers forced while humbling UT's highly touted freshman quarterbacks and the league's top-ranked offense.
Rosegreen particularly enjoyed intercepting four passes from Erik Ainge, who bragged before the game that UT's offense was too good for Auburn to stop.
"He was showing me where he was throwing the ball," says Rosegreen, who is a long-time friend of the other UT quarterback, Brent Schaeffer. He said the key to stopping Schaeffer was to contain his scrambling and the key to beating Ainge was to get pressure on him.
"We wanted to get after Ainge because he was talking a lot of trash in the paper and that hurt me," Rosegreen said. "We knew he signed a big check that he can't cash."
Rosegreen told his teammates before the game he felt a big game coming on and was expecting to intercept several passes.
As impressive as Rosegreen was, not even a record-setting performance could outshine the efforts of fellow senior Jason Campbell. His hot hand led the Tigers to a 31-3 halftime lead and he finished the night by hitting 16-23 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns. He could have had much bigger numbers if Al Borges, the Auburn offensive coordinator, hadn't gone conservative in the third and fourth quarters.
"I figured we had enough points at halftime and I just wanted to make sure we didn't do anything to let Tennessee back in the game," Borges said.
However, in the first half, before Borges put a governor on the offense, the Tigers chewed up the Volunteers with Campbell's pinpoint passing as he used his wide receivers, backs and tight ends to do the damage.
"I thought that was a heck of a performance from all phases of the game--offense, defense and the kicking game," head coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage. All day long, I heard all day long about how great their two quarterbacks are. I wouldn't trade them for the one we have got. He played a great game. He controlled the crowd-- with a few people helping him.
"His mental preparation for this game with Coach Borges was just an outstanding job," Tuberville added. "We opened it up a little bit and threw the ball down the field. We caught them by surprise a little bit and we executed.
"Defensively, we bent a little bit, but we didn't break until right there at the end. We would have loved not to give that up, but Tennessee is a good football team. Our team came to play tonight. We had something to improve. We got stronger each snap. We got better each snap."
Tennessee head coach, Phillip Fulmer, said, "Hats off to Auburn. They did a really good job. I take full responsibility for this loss. I didn't do a good enough job getting this team ready."
Fulmer said his offense was not a factor in the contest. "There was just no continuity--nothing happening for us on offense all day."
Auburn won the opening toss and deferred on the option to receive or kick. The Tiger defense had an impressive opening stand, forcing the Vols to punt on fourth and 10 as starting QB Erik Ainge was flustered by AU's defensive movement. UT's punt was tipped by rusher Tony Bell, but managed to carry 35 yards to the Tiger 45.
Following an offside penalty on the Vols that gave Auburn a first and goal at the eight, Williams lost a yard before Brown bulled in for the touchdown, running over defensive back Jason Allen in the process. That put the Tigers on top less than six minutes into the first quarter.
With Ainge calling the signals and completing a 16-yard pass to Bret Smith, the Vols moved into Tiger territory and cut the gap to 7-3 on a 41-yard field goal by James Wilhoit following three straight incomplete passes.
Auburn looked like it would quickly trump that score as the Tigers moved deep into UT territory with the help of a 32-yard pass to Taylor and a 22-yard run by the Cadillac. Auburn's only turnover of the half would give the Vols a short reprieve when Brown lost the ball at the UT as he was fighting to get into the end zone.
Two plays later, on a QB sneak, Ainge fumbled the ball back to the Tigers and Junior Rosegreen was there to recover at the one.
Following an illegal procedure penalty and a dropped would-be touchdown on a perfect pass by Campbell, the senior quarterback was perfect again, this time on a five-yard slant route for the touchdown to Ben Obomanu.
The Vols then called on their other freshman QB, Schaeffer, and his start was a little better. He managed a first down , but was in for five plays before the Vols had to punt.
Auburn increased the lead to 17-3 at the 7:03 mark of the second quarter on a 24-yard field goal by Vaughn to cap a 12-play, 62-yard drive that featured a 46-yard, over-the-head catch by Devin Aromashodu. "That was a lot of fun," the junior wide receiver said. "It is fun when we are throwing the deep ball."
After another stop by the defense, UT punter Dustin Colquitt appeared to rush the punt after nearly having an earlier one blocked. The ball bounced out of bounds at the 50, traveling just 30 yards.
It took the Tigers just four plays to capitalize on the great field position. On a bootleg pass, Campbell found Wallace open for a 31-yard play to the UT 13. The Cadillac then ran for three yards and a facemask call moved the ball to first and goal at the five. On the next play he powered in at left guard to put Auburn ahead 24-3 with 4:48 left in the second quarter.
That was impressive, but the first half barrage was not finished. After Ainge returned to the game, he moved the Vols into Tiger territory, but Wayne Dickens deflected a pass and Travis Williams got the interception.
Starting at their own 32, the Tigers raced toward the goal line starting with a perfect 38-yard pass to Brown, who caught it in stride. On third and 11, Campbell hit Taylor on a crossing route and he dodged traffic on the way to the end zone and a 31-3 Auburn lead as John Vaughn's PAT tied the SEC record of 199th consecutive makes.
At the half, Campbell was sizzling. He hit 12-15 passes for 240 yards with two TDs, no interceptions and his field leadership was superb. Auburn racked up 333 total yards of offense to 119 for the Vols.
Auburn's opening possession of the first half was its first three and out and first punt. UT then put together a long drive, moving to a first and goal at the Tiger 10. However, the defense made another big play.
This time Rosegreen got the pick on a third down pass over the middle as redshirt freshman defensive end Quentin Groves, who just checked into the game, applied backside pressure. AU took over at its own 20 with 7:58 left in the third quarter and could not move. In fact, the Tigers didn't make a first down in the period as UT gambled that Auburn would not throw the ball and stacked the defensive front.
UT began its only touchdown drive late in the third quarter. Much of the yardage came on penalties, real and imagined, called on the Tigers along with a mixture of running and pass plays from the Vols. UT finally got a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter as Ainge rolled out for a three-yard pass to fullback Corey Anderson to complete the six-play, 53-yard drive.
Auburn scored on its next possession as Aromashodu's kickoff return with a 15-yard personal foul on the Vols set Auburn up at the UT 26. The Tigers had to settle for a field goal though with Vaughn making a 29-yard field goal. That put the Tigers on top 34-10 with 10:48 left in the game.
That ended the scoring as Auburn's focus the rest of the evening was running the clock and keeping the Vols out of the end zone. Its mission was accomplished on both counts.
Williams rushed for 95 yards on 24 carries to lead the Tigers and Brown added 57 on 13 runs. He caught six passes for 79 yards and Courtney Taylor had three catches for 77 yards.
Ainge completed 17-35 passes for 173 yards with four interceptions. Schaeffer was 1-5 for 13 yards with one interception. Cedric Houston led the Vols in rushing with 55 yards on 15 carries.
Auburn returns to action next Saturday with a 2:30 p.m. homecoming game at Jordan-Hare Stadium vs. Louisiana Tech.
Game Notes: The Tigers were greeted by a large crowd of Auburn fans two hours before kickoff at their Tiger Walk as they entered Neyland Stadium. The complete Auburn marching band was there with AU fans...Will Herring led the Tigers in tackles with nine solos and three assists. Travis Williams had seven solos and one assist...Jason Allen, who was run over several times by Auburn players, had 10 solos and four assists to lead UT.