Vols take the Cats 20-7

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The weather didn't cooperate with either of the SEC's top passers who faced each other at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday.

Cold conditions and a blustery wind led to poor passing performances by Tennessee's Casey Clausen and Kentucky's Jared Lorenzen, but on a day when defenses ruled, the Vols still managed to put enough points on the board to close out the regular season with a 20-7 victory.

The win gave UT a portion of the SEC East title and nearly assures the Vols of a warm-weather bowl berth. And that was just fine with head coach Phillip Fulmer.

"We had our struggles, but we're hopeful there are some really good things waiting out there for us," Fulmer said. "(Georgia winning over Georgia Tech) is not anything we can do anything about, but we're in a three-way tie for the SEC East and we're looking forward to what's coming. It'll be a hell of a lot warmer than it is right now, I bet you."

Dealing with some kind of flu bug, Clausen was off the mark throwing the football but also had some drops by his receivers. He managed only one touchdown pass in the game, an 18-yard strike to Mark Jones that gave UT a 10-7 lead in the third quarter. Clausen was 11 of 27 for 110 yards and had one interception along with the TD pass.

"I didn't have a whole lot today," he said. "When you have these kind of conditions, it's more of a defensive game. Offensively, we couldn't get things done in the first half and the weather was a factor."

Fulmer leaped to Clausen's defense, however, saying the senior signal caller was "really sick" but "sucked it up today. He went out there to compete and did everything he could to help us win."

His counterpart on the Wildcats didn't have illness as an excuse, only a poor offensive line. Jared Lorenzen was 17 of 39 for 121 yards and no touchdowns, and, like Clausen, had one pass intercepted.

"It's bittersweet. It stinks because my career is over," Lorenzen said. "This is it, it's all I've got left. This is my last media day. It's tough but at the same time, I'm ready to move on."

Tennessee's defensive plan coming into the game was to stop the Kentucky running game and then put pressure on Lorenzen. But that didn't happen on the Wildcats' second possession in the first quarter, when Lorenzen guided his squad 66 yards on 14 plays for the first score of the game. The Wildcats ran the ball 10 of the 14 plays, with Arliss Beach going in from 1-yard out for the touchdown.

Kentucky's other ploy, besides a trick play now and then, was to let backup quarterback Shane Boyd have a go at running the offense. But Boyd was unsuccessful on two possessions and the Wildcats lost much of the momentum they had gained in the touchdown drive and in stopping the UT offense.

In the second quarter, the two teams exchanged interceptions, and the Vols began their only scoring drive of the half by going to a ground game led by Jabari Davis. Tennessee appeared to be stalled at the Kentucky 35-yard line, but the coaching staff decided to go for it on fourth-and-four.

A Clausen to James Banks pass gained 21 yards, and the Vols drove to the 15 before having to settle for a 33-yard field goal by James Wilhoit, and the teams went to the locker room with the 7-3 Kentucky.

The Vols opened the second half looking like the post Mississippi State offense, driving 65 yards on four plays. Clausen found Mark Jones in the back of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass and the lead, 10-7, at the 13:30 mark.

Neither team could muster much offense until a shanked Kentucky punt gave the Vols good field position at the Wildcat 42-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

Despite two incompletions and a sack, Clausen moved the Vols within field goal range on throws to Mark Jones and James Banks. Wilhoit did the rest with a 47-yard field goal to give UT a 13-7 edge.

The final Tennessee score came on a sustained drive in the final quarter, with the Vols controlling the clock by running the football, a drive Fulmer called "classic."

UT defensive backs Jones, Jabari Greer and Gibril Wilson, all seniors, all praised Lorenzen and the Kentucky game plan, saying the battle with the Wildcats is usually always a game that comes down to the wire, not a blowout or shutout like the 24-0 victory last year.

"Anytime we play Kentucky, it's going to be a hard game," Greer said. "They came out with a good scheme at first and got us out of position. At halftime, we made some adjustments to react to the football and be more aggressive."

Wilson said the defense had prepared for Lorenzen's scrambling style all week but simply "didn't play well in the first half.

"I don't think the (cold) affected anybody all that much," he said. "They'd been hurting us with the screen all game."

Fulmer said it was hard to believe a 10-2 SEC team wouldn't be considered for a BCS bowl, but most scenarios now have Tennessee in the Capital One or Outback bowls in Florida.

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