Vols Use Second-Half Surge For 34-3 Win

Tennessee won the toss and deferred, giving the Bulldogs first turn and QB Tyson Lee first chance. Second-down completions of 15 yards to FB Arnil Stallworth and 13 yards to WR Aubrey Bell got the ball near midfield, and on 3rd-and-9 great protection gave time to find Brandon McRae for 18 total yards to the Volunteer 39-yard line.

McRae went high in traffic to pull down an 11-yard gainer and another first down. State even caught a good break as on first down HB Anthony Dixon lost the handle but OT Quentin Saulsberry fell on it for a six-yard gain. Then trying to scramble Lee was sacked and had to leave on a sprained knee at 9:11. QB Wesley Carroll inherited 3rd-and-8 at the 23-yard line and under pressure had to throw it away. Adam Carlson got enough leg into his 39-yard field goal try but pulled it wide-left.

Tennessee struck for 19 yards on their first snap, a completion to tailback Arian Foster, but soon was punting it away and only for 26 yards. Dixon moved the chains once with a ten-yard burst before State had to punt it back, with a net of 35 yards. His next chance Vol punter Britton Colquitt was much better with a 53-yarder fair-caught at State's 23-yard line.

Lee returned at 4:18 and showed no ill-effects, hitting WR Delmon Robinson on a bootleg for ten yards. His arm was somewhat too strong, as Lee had McRae open on a post at UT's 25 yards line and overthrew him by five yards. A sack brought out McAdams for a 44-yard punt.

A couple of rushes by Lennon Creer had the Vols on their 42-yard line with 3rd-and-2 as the first quarter ended. Creer got the first down in the new period, then a nine-yard flip to fullback Kevin Cooper had the ball on State's 41-yard line. Stephens had nowhere to throw but room up the middle to go, for 17 more yards. The quarterback missed an open man on third down, leaving Daniel Lincoln a 36-yard field goal he knocked through at 11:18 for a 3-0 lead.

On 3rd-and-11 Lee's ‘escapability' allowed him time to locate and deliver to TE Brandon Henderson for 12 yards, though the tight end left the field gimping and State had to use a timeout. Three Dixon totes added up to 20 yards, though he came up slow after a sideline tackle. McRae was interfered with by Demario Willingham for a free first down on the Vol 30-yard line.

Vol safety Eric Berry separated Bell from the ball at the 20 on third down, giving Carlson his second chance of the evening. This time he was good, from 43 yards out, to tie it up at 6:34.

Tennessee used up all but 69 seconds of that in a 10-play drive to un-tie. A 14-yard completion to Lucas Taylor withstood review, and three Foster rushes got a first down across midfield. CB Jasper O'Quinn was flagged for interfering with Austin Rogers, and Foster shed a tackler to get 19 yards down to State's nine-yard line. Stephens took a sack on second down from DE Tim Bailey and DT Lamarcus Williams, though, and on third down O'Quinn had Taylor covered in the corner of the end zone. Lincoln was good on the 28-yard field goal for a 6-3 Vol lead at intermission. Yardage was practically identical at the break, 120 yards for State on 34 snaps and 119 for UT on 25.

Eric Richards' opening second-half kickoff was long enough but a line-drive that let Rogan get up to speed quickly and return to UT's 47-yard line. The ensuing drive entirely changed the game. A screen throw on 3rd-and-7 netted 12 yards to the Bulldog 39-yard line, and on 4th-and-1 the Vols didn't go for a long kick. Instead Taylor slipped inside of O'Quinn at the 21-yard line. On 3rd-and-9 Stephens had time to look left where Rogers had separated himself from CB Marcus Washington for a catch at the eight-yard line. Review showed his knee hit turf before the ball was held over the goal, so it was left to Hardesty to vault left guard for the touchdown at 10:00 even.

The Tennessee kickoff, aimed away from Derek Pegues, went out of bounds, letting State start at their 40-yard line. But Lee lost five yards on second down, and could only scramble the next chance as far as the 47. McAdams' punt was fair-caught at the 12-yard line. The Vols could not advance and Pegues returned Colquitt's punt 10 yards to the MSU 40. Lee took a nine-yard sacking on first down though, and while Dixon got 13 yards on 3rd-and-14 Saulsberry was caught holding. Rogan might have hit a half-tick early across midfield but no flag was thrown and State didn't complain.

The Vols took over on their 38-yard line. Stephens underthrew his deep target down the right sideline but Moore read it while O'Quinn didn't and kept running. Thus Moore checked-up for the grab and 45-yard strike down to State's 17-yard line. S De'Mon Glanton could have picked Stephens' low throw at the 10-yard line, but Lincoln's 34-yard field goal was wide left at 1:34 anyway.

TE Nelson Hurst made his first college catch, a 7-yarder for a first down before the quarters changed. And for State things changed for the much-worse, because after 108 college passes without a pick Lee's turnover-luck ran out. A batted ball ended up in the hands of Willingham on State's 45-yard line. The Vols made nothing of this, but did their next turnover. Lee made another amazing scramble for first down at the MSU 48, taking a wicket hid from safety Berry at the end. That was nothing compared to Lee's pain later, but in the meanwhile a flea-flicker throw to Dixon had State on UT's 36.

But on a 2nd-and-13 throw, to McCrae on a slant, was just a bit late and clearly telegraphed. One Vol safety somehow deflected the throw just enough that Berry came up with the carom, kept his balance in traffic, and gained speed en route to a 72-yard touchdown return at 10:37.

Any lingering Bulldog hopes died three snaps after the touchback. This time Lee was even more late in delivery, the throw well behind Smith. This time Morely got the interception, at the 32-yard line, with nothing between him and the goal line for a 27-3 scoreboard at 9:10.

Lee was given the rest of the evening off and Carroll couldn't move the chains on three throws. A short punt had Tennessee starting a yard the other side of mid-field. Creer was given a dozen consecutive handoffs, the last from the one-yard line. The ball came loose and ended up in S Keith Fitzhugh's hands but Creer was ruled to have broken the plane at 2:39 for the final 34-3 margin of UT victory.

The Bulldogs mustered all of 69 yards in the second half, while Tennessee added 156 in those periods for a 275-189 ground-gained margin on, oddly, an identical 60 offensive snaps. Of UT's 139 net rushing yards, Creer had 68 and Foster 40. Stephens was 10-of-20 passing for 136 yards and sacked only once. Lee went down five official times, to a defense that had just nine sacks in the previous six games. He completed 12 of his 23 passes for 114 yards and his first three college interceptions. Dixon ran 15 times for 46 yards and was State's top receiver with three grabs for 27 yards.

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