No deja' vu for Vol D

It was all very familiar. Too familiar, in fact. A University of Tennessee defense that had held Alabama in check for 56 minutes needed one more stop in the final minutes to preserve a 16-13 victory.

Fans may recall that UT's defense held Bama in check for 56 minutes last fall only to allow a 43-yard pass play that fueled a game-winning field goal drive as the Tide prevailed 6-3. That awful memory flashed through linebacker Jerod Mayo's mind as he took the field with 3:28 to play Saturday at Neyland Stadium and a 16-13 lead to protect.

"It definitely went through my mind," Mayo conceded. "I was like, ‘Man, not again!' We've got to go out there, pin our ears back and come."

And that's precisely what the UT defenders did. With the crowd cheering them on, they put relentless pressure on Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson in the game's closing minutes.

"The crowd played a major factor in this game," Mayo said. "When they got excited, so did we. We fed off the crowd."

And the Vols lived off their quickness. With a scant lead to preserve, Tennessee put speed rushers Xavier Mitchell and Antonio Reynolds at end and turned them loose.

Mitchell dropped Wilson for no gain on a first-and-10 scramble at the Tide 20-yard line. Two incompletions later, Bama punted.

When Tennessee's offense ran three plays and punted the ball back with 1:15 to play, Vol defenders needed to rise to the occasion one last time. They did.

Three short completions enabled Bama to reach its 40-yard line with 42 seconds left. At this point, however, Reynolds sacked Wilson for a crucial nine-yard loss.

"The play before I pushed up-field hard," Reynolds recalled, adding that Wilson stepped up in the pocket and still completed the pass. "I figured if I'd spin underneath, it'd give me a good opportunity to get through and make a sack."

The strategy worked perfectly. One incompletion later, Mayo sacked Wilson for an eight-yard loss, ending the game.

So, on a day when a Tennessee offense averaging 35 points per game managed just 16, the Vol defense picked up the slack.

"We felt like all year we've had some pretty good defensive efforts at times," Mayo noted. "We just didn't put a whole game together."

With Tennessee coming off a explosive 51-33 defeat of Georgia, many fans thought the Bama game would be more of the same. That wasn't the case, however.

"Everybody was saying this was going to be a high-scoring game," Mayo said. "We (defensive players) kind took offense at that. We went out there with chips on our shoulders, and we definitely proved to the country that we can play defense here at Tennessee."

One reason it wasn't a high-scoring game was that the Vols limited talented Tide tailback Kenneth Darby to a measly 26 yards on 14 carries. He ran for 162 yards the previous week against Ole Miss.

Were Tennessee defenders surprised to shut down Darby so completely?

"Not really," Reynolds said. "I know he's a great back but we put a lot of focus toward stopping the run."

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