RECAP: Tennessee came out for its first offensive play in a four-wide alignment with Chuck Prugh at center in place of injured Jason Respert. Erik Ainge hit Jayson Swain for 21 yards on third and four. Two plays later Cedric Houston burst through a gaping hole at left guard but tripped in the secondary after a 25-yard gain. That trip wound up costing Tennessee four points, as the Vols eventually settled for a 30-yard James Wilhoit field goal and a 3-0 lead with 8:57 left in the quarter. Notre Dame retaliated in no time flat, driving 80 yards in seven plays. Brady Quinn hit Maurice Stovall on third-and-nine and, thanks to some missed tackles by UT, Stovall gained 13 yards and a first down. After an 18-yard pass to Marcus Wilson, Darius Walker broke 32 yards to the Vol 16-yard line. Walker gained eight yards on the next play, then Quinn found tight end Anthony Fasano in the end zone with an eight-yard touchdown pass. The PAT put Notre Dame on top 7-3 with 5:16 left in the period. A 29-yard completion from Quinn to Stovall helped Notre Dame advance to UT's 37-yard line but two incompletions forced a punt moments before the quarter ended.
KEY PLAY: Houston's slip on Tennessee's third running play of the game. Had he maintained his balance, the play would've gained 42 yards and given Tennessee a quick 7-0 lead.
KEY PLAYER: Quinn. He completed five of eight passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.
KEY STAT: Notre Dame averaged nearly 10 yards per snap in the period, 15 plays gaining 141 yards. The Irish averaged better than 9 yards per rush, running seven times for 58 net yards.
RECAP: Tennessee drove to the Irish 35-yard line on its first possession of the quarter. On fourth-and-five, Chris Hannon broke wide open on a crossing route but Ainge's throw was too high, and Notre Dame took over on downs. Facing a second-and-14 at its own 44-yard line, Tennessee struck for the go-ahead score. Correctly anticipating a blitz, Ainge lobbed a screen pass to Houston, who rambled 56 yards for a touchdown. James Wilhoit's PAT gave Tennessee a 10-7 lead with 2:47 left in the period. On the final play of the half, Ainge bobbled a shotgun snap and was thrown for a 16-yard loss. He appeared to injure his right (throwing) shoulder when he hit the ground.
KEY PLAY: The screen to Houston. It was the perfect call at the perfect time, and it turned the game's momentum.
KEY PLAYER: Houston and Jesse Mahelona. Although the screen play caught Notre Dame blitzing, Houston got 50 of the 56 yards on his own with some nifty running. The downfield blocking wasn't very good. Mahelona recorded two minus-yardage stops in the quarter, including a seven-yard sack near midfield that killed an Irish drive.
KEY STAT: After allowing 141 total yards in the first period, UT's defense allowed just 18 in the second quarter. Ainge completed 11 of 18 passes for 149 yards in the first half, accounting for all but 46 of Tennessee's 195 total yards.
RECAP: With Ainge sidelined by a separated right shoulder, Rick Clausen assumed the Vol quarterback duties. After a three-and-out on UT's first possession of the second half, Clausen threw as he was hit on the next possession. The errant pass was intercepted by Irish linebacker Mike Goolsby, who returned it 27 yards for a touchdown that put Notre Dame on top 14-10 with 6:46 left in the period. After a three-and-out by Tennessee, Jesse Mahelona destroyed Notre Dame's next possession. Mahelona threw Darius Walker for consecutive losses of one and two yards, then Carlyle Holiday dropped a pass on third and 13. Clausen rallied the Vols at this point, hitting Robert Meachem with a 39-yard bomb to the Notre Dame 21-yard line. The Vols stalled at this point but Wilhoit nailed a 33-yard field goal, closing the gap to 14-13 with 1:28 left in the period.
KEY PLAY: Goolsby's interception. It put Tennessee in a position where the Vols could no longer play ''safe'' and try to sit on their lead.
KEY PLAYER: Goolsby. Seemingly all over the field, he threw Houston for a two-yard loss on the play before intercepting Clausen's misfire.
KEY STAT: Notre Dame gained just 12 yards of total offense on 11 plays in the period, yet took the lead due to Goolsby's big defensive play.
RECAP: A 15-yard completion from Clausen to Chris Hannon helped Tennessee move into Notre Dame territory on the Vols' first possession of the fourth period but Riggs was stopped cold on fourth-and-one at the Irish 34-yard line, and Notre Dame took over on downs. The Irish methodically marched from its 35 to the Vol 22-yard line. D.J. Fitzpatrick hit a 39-yard field goal with 7:23 remaining, padding the Irish lead to 17-13. Clausen hit Swain for 22 yards and Houston for 10 to the Notre Dame 37-yard line. Clausen was sacked on back-to-back plays, however, by Derek Curry and Goolsby, and the Vols were forced to punt the ball away with 3:30 remaining. Tennessee got one final shot with 2:12 remaining. On first and 10 at its 27-yard line, however, a bad snap from shotgun formation resulted in a 15-yard loss and doomed the Vols' comeback hopes.
KEY PLAY: Fitzpatrick's field goal. That widened the gap to four points and left Tennessee needing a touchdown to win. That changed UT's offensive thinking drastically.
KEY PLAYER: Fitzpatrick, for the reason listed above.
KEY STAT: Tennessee moved to the Notre Dame 34-yard line and the Irish 37-yard line in the quarter but came away no points either time.