Fulmer 19-8 after open dates

Phillip Fulmer was king of the open date during his first six years as Tennessee's head coach, going 12-2 following off weeks. During the seven years since then, however, his record following off weeks is a modest 7-6.

Four of those six most recent losses came at the hands of Florida, which has been Fulmer's chief nemesis. The other two came against Alabama. Coincidentally, the Tide will be Tennessee's opponent this weekend, following the Vols' only open date of 2006.

Some of Tennessee's past open dates proved extremely timely, allowing for injuries to heal and for schematic or personnel adjustments to be made. With key players such as offensive lineman Arron Sears, receiver Jayson Swain, offensive lineman Anthony Parker, return specialist Austin Rogers and defensive lineman Turk McBride nursing injuries, Fulmer figures this year's open date was a godsend.

"Sometimes they come at a real good time," he said. "This one did."

After playing six games in six weeks, the 2006 Vols probably needed a chance to rest and recuperate. They enjoyed some down time last week but still managed to get in some fruitful practices.

"The open week was productive for us," Fulmer noted. "It was good to get a break for our team, also to have the week to let some guys heal up."

On a negative note, the open date interrupted Tennessee when it had a nice head of steam. After losing 21-20 to Florida in Game 3, the Big Orange trounced Marshall 33-7, Memphis 41-7 and Georgia 51-33 the next three weekends. The obvious question: Can the Vols recapture the momentum they had prior to the off week?

"We did a good job of keeping our focus during the open week," Fulmer said. "As we go through this six-week stretch, it's important that our players keep as focused as they were the first six weeks."

Historically, Fulmer has had a September open date prior to facing Florida. He's glad this year's open date falls a little later in the season.

"I think this is a good time for us," he said. "If you're going to have 12 games, it's good to have one (break) in the middle."

Fulmer's most useful open dates probably occurred in his second full year at the helm. After a 3-4 start, his '94 Vols regrouped during an open date and beat South Carolina 31-22. After another open date, they swept Memphis (24-13), Kentucky (52-0) and Vanderbilt (65-0) to finish 7-4.

Conversely, last year's open dates seemed to be of no benefit whatsoever. The 2005 Vols followed their first open date with a 16-7 loss at Florida. They followed their second open date with consecutive losses to Alabama (6-3), South Carolina (16-15) and Notre Dame (41-21).

Here's a recap of all 27 open dates in the Fulmer era:

1993: Tennessee, 5-1-1, had an open date Oct. 23, then beat South Carolina 55-3 and Louisville 45-10. UT had another open date Nov. 13, then drilled Kentucky 48-0 and Vanderbilt 62-14.

1994: Tennessee, 3-4, had an open date Oct. 22, then beat South Carolina 31-22. UT had another open date Nov. 5, then beat Memphis 24-13, Kentucky 52-0 and Vanderbilt 65-0.

1995: Tennessee, 6-1, had an open date Oct. 21, then beat South Carolina 56-21 and Southern Miss 42-0. UT had another open date Nov. 11, then beat Kentucky 34-31 and Vanderbilt 12-7.

1996: Tennessee, 2-0, had an open date Sept. 14, then lost 35-29 to Florida. UT had another open date Sept. 28, then beat Ole Miss 41-3 and Georgia 29-17. The Vols had a third open date Oct. 19, then beat Alabama 20-13 to start a 5-1 finishing kick.

1997: Tennessee, 2-0, had an open date Sept. 13, then lost 33-20 to Florida. UT had another open date, then beat Ole Miss 31-17, Georgia 38-13 and Alabama 38-21. The Vols had a third open date Oct. 25, then beat South Carolina 22-7 to open a 5-0 finishing kick.

1998: Tennessee, 1-0, had an open date Sept. 12, then beat Florida 20-17 in overtime, Houston 42-7, Auburn 17-9 and Georgia 22-3. UT had another open date Oct. 17, then beat Alabama 35-18 to launch a 7-0 finishing kick.

1999: Tennessee, 1-0, had an open date Sept. 11, then lost 23-21 to Florida, beat Memphis 17-16, beat Auburn 24-0 and beat Georgia 37-20. UT had another open date Oct. 16, then beat Alabama 21-7 to open a 4-1 finishing kick.

2000: Tennessee, 1-0, had an open date Sept. 9, then lost to Florida 27-23, beat Louisiana-Monroe 70-3, lost 38-31 to LSU in overtime and lost 21-10 to Georgia. UT had another open date Oct. 14, then beat Alabama 20-10 to launch a 6-0 finishing kick.

2001: Tennessee, 2-0, had an open date Sept.15 (because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks) and a regularly scheduled open date Sept. 22. UT then beat LSU 26-18 to start an 8-1 finishing kick.

2002: Tennessee, 2-0, had an open date Sept. 14, then lost 30-13 to Florida, beat Rutgers 35-14, beat Arkansas 41-38 in six overtimes and lost 18-13 to Georgia. UT had another open date Oct. 19, then lost 34-14 to Alabama to open a 4-2 stretch run.

2003: Tennessee, 2-0, had an open date Sept. 13, then beat Florida 24-10, beat South Carolina 23-20 in overtime, lost 28-21 to Auburn and lost 41-14 to Georgia. UT had another open date Oct. 18, then beat Alabama 51-43 in five overtimes to launch a 6-0 finishing kick.

2004: Tennessee, 1-0, had an open date Sept. 12, then beat Florida 30-28 to start a 5-2 stretch. UT had another open date Nov. 13, then beat Vanderbilt 38-33 and Kentucky 37-31.

2005: Tennessee, 1-0, had an open date Sept. 10, then lost to Florida 16-7, beat LSU 30-26 in overtime, beat Ole Miss 27-10 and lost to Georgia 27-14. UT had another open date Oct. 15, then lost 6-3 to Alabama, 16-15 to South Carolina and 41-21 to Notre Dame before beating Memphis 20-16, losing 28-24 to Vanderbilt and beating Kentucky 27-8.


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