His first grab, a 30-yarder on the Vols' second possession, was a big one:
1.It advanced the ball from Kentucky's 43-yard line to the 13.
2.It gave him 2,021 career receiving yards, making him just the sixth player in UT history to crack the 2,000-yard mark.
3.It padded his 2006 yardage total to 1,179 – breaking the single-season school record of 1,170 set by Marcus Nash in 1997.
Meachem's second grab was a big one, too. It came just two plays after his first and produced the Vols' initial touchdown. Hauling in a 15-yard strike from Ainge, Meachem deftly dragged one foot as he was stepping through the back of the end zone.
His third catch, a 15-yarder in the third period, moved him past Tim McGee and into fifth place on UT's all-time list for career receiving yards. Meachem wasn't done, though.
His fourth catch was a simple hitch route that saw him break a tackle at the line of scrimmage and motor 33 yards to the UK 27-yard line. His fifth catch, an eight-yarder later in the same drive, advanced the ball to the Kentucky 2-foot line, from which point the Vols scored the go-ahead touchdown on the very next play.
Believe it or not, Meachem's biggest catch was still to come. With Tennessee clinging to a 17-12 lead and facing third-and-three at its 13-yard line with 2:28 to play, Meachem drifted into the right flat and gathered in a short toss from Ainge. Breaking a tackle, Meachem raced 15 yards for a first down that enabled Tennessee to run out the clock and seal the hard-fought victory.
"Occasionally, we get one that's really, really special, and Robert is a really, really special football player," Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer said, adding that "his work ethic, his character, his physical toughness and his mental toughness certainly weigh in his favor."
Whereas many superstar athletes are prima donnas, Meachem is a humble young man who takes no short cuts. He works as hard as anyone on Tennessee's roster.
"He has been really limited the last three weeks with an ankle injury since the Arkansas on-sides kick," Fulmer said. "I actually had to take his helmet during practice and make him sit down so he'd get some rest on his ankle. He's that kind of young man."
Ainge, who has resurrected his career in 2006 with considerable help from Meachem, said his go-to guy is easy to look for and hard to resist.
"He got me in trouble a couple of times; he's so good I was looking to him when I shouldn't have," Ainge conceded. "On the touchdown I threw to him I knew the safety wasn't anywhere near him. Basically, it was just him and the corner, so you throw it up there and hope he can make a play. I trust him. Nine times out of 10 he comes down with the football for a big play."
In spite of Saturday's achievements, Meachem was typically modest after the game.
"I'm blessed," he said. "I thank God for everything. It wasn't just me. It was everybody. If the O-line wasn't blocking and the center wasn't getting the ball to Erik, none of that would've been possible. I just want to thank everybody."