- UT vs. MSU post-game interview: Offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe
- UT vs. MSU post-game interview: WR coach Trooper Taylor about Lucas Taylor">
- UT vs. MSU post-game interview: QB Erik Ainge
- UT vs. MSU post-game interview: TB Arian Foster
- UT vs. MSU post-game interview: WR Austin Rogers
- Vol Report: Published Oct. 14, 2007
- PostGame audio slide show: UT vs. Mississippi St.
- Box Score: UT vs. Miss. St.
- Watching with Ward: Review the game, play-by-play
- Check out game video from WVLT
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Daniel Lincoln doesn't do the math. He has no use for the scoreboard or the clock.
His world is one thing and one thing only: Just kick the football.
Fortunately for Tennessee he was good at it Saturday.
With rough, tough Mississippi State bringing the fight, Lincoln legged the 25th-ranked Vols out of harm's way.
UT (4-2, 2-1 SEC) got out of Scott Field with a 33-21 win, as Lincoln booted four field goals to complement the passing of Erik Ainge and some hard running from Arian Foster.
"I'm proud of our kicker,'' said UT coach Phillip Fulmer. "He did a heckuva job today.
"We don't want to be kicking it that much, obviously.''
But you rarely get everything you want in a tough SEC road game.
What was perceived as a challenging outing - falling on the schedule between Georgia and Alabama - turned out to be just that.
Cheered on by a cowbell-clanging crowd of 50,217, the Bulldogs (4-3, 1-3) gave the Vols everything they wanted.
"We knew Mississippi State, reputation-wise, they we're going to be physical,'' said UT's Mississippi-born center Josh McNeil.
"It was like a fight in there. We were slugging it out and the toughest son of a gun was going to win.''
Who was going to win was in doubt midway through the third quarter.
The Bulldogs were too close for Tennessee's comfort, trailing only 24-21 after freshman quarterback Wesley Carroll threw his second touchdown pass.
The Vols toughed it out from there, moving the ball enough to get Lincoln in position for field goals of 29, 26 and 43 yards, while the defense produced three fourth-down stops to keep the Bulldogs chained up.
Lincoln's 29-yarder made it 27-21 with 3:41 left in the third quarter.
He hit from 26 to pad the lead to 30-21 with 5:45 left. That meant State would have to score twice.
His 43-yarder with 2:32 left was icing on the cake.
"I don't ever think about the situation or where we're at,'' said the freshman from Ocala, Fla.
"I just visualize the kick before I take it and then make the kick.''
Well, there was the kick he didn't make.
Lincoln's perfect season ended at 8-of-8 when he missed from 26 yards trying to break a 14-14 deadlock late in the first half.
"Just a freshman mistake,'' he said. "It was a short kick, I took it for granted and looked up.''
A defensive stand, judicious use of timeouts and a 26-yard pass from Ainge to Lucas Taylor gave Lincoln a chance to start a new streak less than two minutes later.
He made good on his reprieve, hitting from 47 yards on the final play of the first half to send the Vols into the locker room with a 17-14 lead.
A 1-yard TD run from Foster made it 24-14 early in the third quarter, but any thoughts of Tennessee pulling away were dashed when State came right back to score.
Ultimately, it would be up to Lincoln and the defense.
"We need to do a better job of getting the ball in the end zone,'' said Ainge, "but it's a good safety valve anytime you know if it's close, you can throw it away and know you're going to get the three points.''
Ainge finished 22-of-36 passing for 259 yards. That included a 51-yard TD bomb to Taylor and a 4-yard scoring dink to tight end Chris Brown in the first half.
Taylor had a career day, 11 catches for 186 yards.
"I'll go to war with No. 12 (Taylor) any day,'' said Ainge.
In this war, Foster was the infantry, rushing for 139 of Tennessee's 211 yards on the ground.
Mississippi State virtually challenged Tennessee's manhood to stop the run. The Vols didn't stop the Bulldogs cold, but they did contain them to 135 yards on the ground.
Anthony Dixon, a 240-pound bruiser, accounted for 108 yards on 26 carries. Other than a 30-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter, Dixon found Vols in his path at every turn.
"He's a heckuva load to try to bring down,'' said defensive end Xavier Mitchell.
Carroll was 18-of-33 passing for 203 yards. He passed 38 yards to Tony Burks for a first-quarter score and then 14 yards to Jamayel Smith for a TD in the third period.
All told, UT outgained State 470 yards to 338.
"We got 'em stopped when we had to,'' said defensive coordinator John Chavis.
"There were times when it wasn't pretty because they did some really good things.''
Tennessee's first possession didn't miss a beat from the tour de force over Georgia last week.
The Vols covered 78 yards in nine plays. Most of it came through the air as Ainge was 4-of-4 for 61 yards in the drive, including the 4-yard flip to Brown for the score.
Then it was Mississippi State's turn at the wheel.
Third-and-long was UT's undoing on both of State's back-to-back touchdown drives.
Facing third-and-10 at the 38, Carroll lobbed a short pass to Burks across the middle and there was no Tennessee defender to stop him from turning up the sideline and sprinting all the way to the end zone.
On its next possession, State made a good call on third-and-11 as Carroll caught UT napping with a shovel pass to Justin Williams for 14 yards.
Dixon took over from there. He got the go-ahead score from 30 yards out on the first snap of the second quarter.
Down 14-7, Tennessee's defense showed some backbone. State ran 12 plays the rest of the quarter for a combined 18 yards and zero first downs.
The Vols got even on Ainge's 51-yard TD fling to Taylor, his longest scoring pass of the season.
Lincoln's second-chance kick at the end of the half put UT ahead to stay.
"I'm glad to get the miss out of the way before a crucial time,'' said Fulmer.
"I don't think it bothered him. He's pretty good about letting things roll off his back.''
Evidently. His new streak is 4-of-4 heading to Alabama.
"It felt really good to contribute like that in this environment,'' Lincoln said. "The way the game went, that was huge.''
Not that he noticed how the game was going at the time.
He was just visualizing the next kick.