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- Vol Report: Published Sept. 2, 2007
- PostGame audio slide show: UT vs. California
- Box Score: UT vs. California
- Watching with Ward: Review the game, play-by-play
- Game highlights and postgame comments from WVLT
Tennessee Stat Book
BERKELEY, Calif. - The big plays changed uniforms. So did the winners.
A year ago in Neyland Stadium, Tennessee used an arsenal of big plays to put a season-opening whipping on the California Golden Bears.
Saturday night on the other side of the Continental Divide, it was 12th-ranked Cal ripping off a couple of early big plays and making them stand up for a season-opening 45-31 victory over the 15th-ranked Vols.
A crowd of 72,516 had barely settled into Cal Memorial Stadium before Worrell Williams returned an Erik Ainge fumble 44 yards for a tone-setting touchdown.
Early in the second quarter, DeSean Jackson lived up to his preseason All-America hype by returning a punt 77 for another score.
Considering the way Cals offense was carving up Tennessee’s defensive unit, the big plays were too much to overcome.
It was the most points UT had allowed since a 62-37 loss at Florida in 1995.
“We gave ‘em, or they earned, 14 points,’’ said UT coach Phillip Fulmer, who was hoping for a happy 57th birthday present but didn’t get it.
“And then we didn’t tackle well. On a number of occasions we looked bad trying to tackle them.
“And with all that said, at 38-31 early in the fourth quarter, we had a chance to win the ballgame and didn’t get it done.’’
The Vols got a rushing touchdown from Montario Hardesty. Ainge completed two short scoring passes to tight end Chris Brown and another to Arian Foster.
UT’s big gainers were limited to a 42-yard run by Foster, a 68-yard kickoff return by Foster and a 43-yard Ainge pass to Lucas Taylor.
The Bears broke away from a 21-21 tie by scoring the final 10 points of the first half and the first seven of the second.
Cal led 38-21 on Nate Longshore’s 3-yard TD pass to Lavelle Hawkins on the first series of the third quarter.
Ainge’s 5-yard TD pass to Brown cut the deficit to 38-28 with 3:57 left in the third quarter.
Still, the Vols had to rue the fact that on their previous possession Foster’s 42-yard run the Cal 3 was squandered.
Three attempts advanced only to the 1. On fourth-and-goal, Ainge’s pass to a well-covered Foster was broken up.
Daniel Lincoln’s 41-yard field narrowed the margin to 38-31 with 14:17 left to play, but the Bears came roaring back to dominate the rest of the way.
Justin Forsett’s 13-yard scoring made it 45-31
“It was a big win,’’ said Cal coach Jeff Tedford, “no question about it.
“We’ve been carrying this with us for a year.’’
The season started like a track meet.
Five of the first six possessions – and seven of the first 10 – ended in touchdowns.
All four of Tennessee’s first four possessions, in fact, resulted in touchdowns – two for the Vols and two for the Bears.
Tennessee gave an immediate indication of how the new kickoff-from-the-30 rule will affect strategy. The Vols won the kickoff and elected to receive.
On the fourth play of the game, Ainge was hit in the back by Cal linebacker Zack Follett while attempting to pass.
The ball squirted virtually straight up in the air, hit the ground and another Cal linebacker, Williams, alertly scooped it up and raced 44 yards to the end zone.
Officials reviewed the play and ruled it a fumble rather than an incomplete pass.
Cal led 7-0.
The Vols answered with Foster taking an Ainge pass 12 yards and sidestepping three defenders for the touchdown.
It didn’t stay tied long. The Bears started at their 46 after the kickoff and motored 54 yards. Longshore scored on a third-and-2 sneak to make it 14-7.
Again, Tennessee answered quickly. Foster’s 68-yard kickoff return to the Cal 24 provided a short field.
Hardesty’s 1-yard dive made it 14-14 with 3:03 left in the first quarter.
Finally, an old-fashioned exchange of punts transpired.
Cal’s was uneventful. Tennessee’s was a disaster.
The Vols had it third-and-1 at their 37 but disdained the run for a flare pass to Foster. The Bears were waiting and snuffed it. Out came Britton Colquitt.
Colquitt directed his kick toward the sideline to hem in Jackson. It didn’t work.
Jackson juked a defender, cut back across the field, found a gap and raced 77 yards to the end zone for a 21-14 Cal lead.
“We tried to punt the ball out of bounds and didn’t get it all the way over there,’’ said Fulmer.
“The guy is electrifying, as we saw. We knew that going in.’’
Tennessee got even again, however.
A 43-yard Ainge pass to Taylor set up the score, a 2-yard pass to Brown.
Cal jumped back in front, 28-21, on a 4-yard pass from Longshore to Robert Jordan, then the Bears added a 27-yard field goal from Jordan Kay after a 13-yard Colquitt punt and a 49-yard pass-and-run from Longshore to Forsett.
The Vols wouldn’t catch up again.
“We played a good football team,’’ said Fulmer. “They were in the top 10 (offensively) in every category last year.
“They lost a tailback (Marshawn Lynch) and replaced him with one just as good (Forsett).
“We play in a league with a lot of speed, but they definitely made us look not very good sometimes.’’