Once again Tennessee's defense was the star, as the Vols held Kentucky (7-5, 3-5) to under 200 total yards and under 100 yards through the air. Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen, who came into the contest as the SEC's most efficient passer, finished the game hitting 9-of-23 for 59 yards. He gave way to Shane Boyd in the third quarter, but Kentucky came no closer to scoring as the sophomore connected on only 3-of-7 for 24 yards.
"The whole defense played well," said UT's Phillip Fulmer in an interview broadcast by the Vol Network. "We got more pass rush than most have (on Kentucky) and our secondary did a great job. I said before the season I thought our secondary had a chance to be the best we've had. Except for some injuries, I think they would have been. Back-to-back shutouts is a credit to our defense."
The Wildcats ground game didn' fare any better as the Vols held Kentucky to 89 rushing yards in 29 carries. Artose Pinner, the SEC's leading rusher was held to 51 yards in 11 carries and committed the game's only turnover on a fumble in the second quarter.
Kentucky's opening drive was its most effective as the Cats drove 58 yards in 16 plays, consuming 7:32 of the first quarter clock before missing a field goal. UK finished the game with 172 yards in 59 plays for an average of 2.9 yards per snap.
While Lorenzen sputtered, Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen threw the ball better than he has all season, and moved more freely in the pocket than he has since injuring his ankle against South Carolina. Clausen finished the game 13-of-26 for 175 yards and two touchdowns on passes on 18 and 35 yards to Derrick Tinsley. At least five of Clausen's passes were perfectly placed only to be dropped by UT receivers who are still struggling to establish some semblance of consistency.
Tinsley's first touchdown put Tennessee up 7-0 with 2:47 remaining in the first quarter capping a four-play, 56-yard drive in only 86 seconds. His second touchdown came with 4:15 remaining in the second quarter on an clearing route which he turned up the sideline and took to the end zone to the put the Vols up 21-0. Tinsley was both Tennessee's leading receiver and rusher in the game, as he caught four passes for 72 yards and carried the ball eight times for 48 yards.
Between Tinsley's two scoring receptions, the Vols put together an 11-play, 79-yard touchdown drive that was capped by Jabari Davis' one-yard dive. Davis gained 41 yards in nine carries while leading rusher Cedric Houston had 41 yards in 14 carries.
After building a 21-0 halftime lead, the only score of the second half was on a 42-yard field goal by Alex Walls at the 11:50 mark of the fourth quarter.
Jabari Greer who was something of a surprise starter at the corner after being listed as doubtful earlier in the week, said he wasn' surprised that UT's secondary was able to hold Kentucky to 83 yards through the air.
"I knew we could,"˜ Greer stated."We had a goal coming in to hold them under 100 yards passing. That's what we did last week and we did it again."
Keyon Whiteside, who was a rock all season for a Tennessee defense that lost three starting linebackers to injuries, expressed pride in his teammates that they didn't quit when things looked bleak this season.
"I'm so proud of this team," Whiteside said. "There were plenty of times we could have folded the tents and gone home, but we didn't."
The win was Tennessee's fourth in a row over SEC opponents and the Vols have surrendered just 28 total points in those four victories. The Vols also held Miami to its lowest point total (26) of the season during the final five games of the 2002 season.
"We were ready to play today," Fulmer said. "Its a great credit to our seniors and staff to overcome the start we had. You remember the teams that overcome adversity and this team really had an impact. I just have great appreciation for that type of guts and that type of fight."
After it looked like Tennessee might not qualify for a bowl at one point this season, the Vols will actually carry some momentum into a post season encounter. The most likely destination appears to be Atlanta and the Peach Bowl, but that won't be determined until next Saturday's SEC Championship game.
"Obviously we'll get a chance to go somewhere," said Fulmer. "That's important not just for this team, but to get a chance to work some of our young guys.
"We're going on the road to recruit tomorrow and the team needs at least a week to rest."
For a team that refused to quit that rest is well deserved.