Tennessee’s Saturday showdown against cross-state rival Vanderbilt closes a four-game homestand and sets up to be an emotional afternoon on a number of Volunteer fronts.
UT has a chance to maintain control of the SEC Eastern Division race and complete a sweep of the home schedule, but only after saying a heartfelt Neyland Stadium goodbye to 23 senior Vols.
Tennessee footballers making their final pregame runs through the “T” are Erik Ainge, Chris Brown, Sinclair Cannon, Brad Cottam, Michael Crain, Dylan Dickey, Michael Frogg, Adam Gillem, Bo Hardegree, Jonathan Hefney, Inquoris Johnson, Steven Jones, Ryan Karl, J.T. Mapu, Cameron Mayo, Xavier Mitchell, Roy Olasimbo, Jarod Parrish, Antonio Reynolds, Kirk Swearingen, Ja’Kouri Williams, Casey Woods and Eric Young.
“I think that’s one of the great moments we have here at Tennessee when they get to run through the ‘T’ for the final time,” head coach Phillip Fulmer said. “To me, personally, that’s one of the hardest things I do during the course of the year, saying goodbye to that group of seniors. This group has experienced so much and been through a lot and continued to do well.”
The Vols, 7-3 overall and 4-2 SEC, need a win Saturday over Vanderbilt to keep the pressure on Georgia, which stands 5-2 in the league and closes its conference schedule this weekend by hosting Kentucky. Tennessee, which owns the tie-breaker over Georgia, travels to Kentucky a week from Saturday for its SEC finale.
Not since 1999 has a Tennessee team finished undefeated at home, and it’s been since 1960 that a Vols squad won all four games of a four-game homestand. UT has outscored its last four home opponents 93-3 in the first half of those games.
“I don’t sense anything different as far as our preparation,” Fulmer said. “Maybe we’ve improved. You certainly give credit to the fans and the energy in the stadium. And there’s some youth on the team, so maybe they are in a more comfortable environment.
“We’ve been a darn good road team for years and years around here. I can’t tell you a particular thing, but I hope it continues for one more week. And then we need to be a good road team again.”
Ticket returns from UT students and the Vanderbilt allotment can be purchased through the UTSports.com Web site, or by calling the UT athletics ticket office at 656-1200 or 800-332-VOLS. Ticket office hours at Thompson-Boling Arena are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.