Fulmer recalls first Tampa trip

Phillip Fulmer spent Jan. 1, 1993 directing Tennessee in bowl action at Tampa. He'll celebrate the 14th anniversary of that occasion this Jan. 1 by doing precisely the same thing in precisely the same location.

Here's another interesting coincidence: The '92 Vols were 8-3 and ranked No. 17 when Fulmer accompanied them to Tampa to face Boston College in what was then known as the Hall of Fame Bowl. The 2006 Vols are 9-3 and ranked No. 17 as they prepare to visit Tampa to face Penn State (8-4) in what is now known as the Outback Bowl.

Asked what he recalls about the '93 game in Tampa, Fulmer replied: "We played Boston College, coached by Tom Coughlin (now head coach of the NFL's New York Giants). Any time you play somebody you respect so much, it means a lot."

Although Fulmer wanted his players to enjoy the bowl atmosphere on that first bowl trip, he was determined to prepare them for a football game, as well. Finding a suitable mix of work and play was one of his key concerns. The coach recalled devoting considerable time to determining "how much to do and how much not to do, as far as contact and conditioning. It was a real eye-opening experience for me and our staff."

Once game day arrived, Fulmer said he was surprisingly calm.

"I was not really nervous," he recalled. "I was really excited about the opportunity."

Following a botched punt, Tennessee opened its first possession on Boston College's 43-yard line. Fulmer went for the jugular right away. Heath Shuler hit Ronald Davis with a 42-yard pass that carried to the Eagles' 1-yard line, and Shuler scored on the next play for a 7-0 Vol lead.

"We went after 'em early," Fulmer recalled.

Bowl MVP Shuler wound up completing 18 of 23 passing for 245 yards, helping Tennessee build a 38-7 lead. The Vols gave up two late touchdowns but still won handily, 38-23.

Fulmer's first bowl experience in Tampa was a pleasant one, and he expects his second to be just as enjoyable.

"We're very excited to be back in the Outback Bowl again," he said. "Tampa's a great city. My wife (Vicky) is from St. Pete, so we're familiar with the area and we look forward to a great week."

Fulmer says he didn't see Penn State in action during the regular season and knows very little about the Nittany Lions. He knows a lot about the Big Ten in general, however.

"Typically, Big Ten teams run the football well," he said. "Our experience has been that you'd better be ready to strap it on. I haven't seen Penn State on tape but I'm sure that's the case."

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