Photo by Michael Patrick // Buy this photo
Photo by Saul Young // Buy this photo
Audio slide show
- Vols still give up big plays on defense
- Vols' defense knows it still has long way to go
- Adams: One victory doesn't serve as a cure-all for UT
- Vols' young players tossed into fire, provide some spark
- Indians credit QB Ainge for his playmaking
Watching with Ward
Dave Hooker audio
- QB Erik Ainge on giving up big plays
- Phillip Fulmer on Jonathan Hefney’s –17 yards in punt returns and young players contributing.
- FS/PR Jonathan Hefney on punt return struggles
- OG Jacques McClendon on UT’s seven-man offensive line rotation
- DB coach Larry Slade on CB DeAngelo Willingham.
- WR Austin Rogers
- CB DeAngelo Willingham.
Tennessee Stat Book
Tennessee's 48-27 win over Arkansas State included something(s) old and something even older Saturday night at Neyland Stadium.
Tennessee's defense gave up big plays - familiar territory in 2007.
The Vols' offense forked over a touchdown on a turnover - right on schedule.
And LaMarcus Coker shook loose for the kind of performance not seen since last year. The sophomore tailback rushed for 101 yards and scored two touchdowns.
A crowd announced at 102,368 watched the Vols improve to 2-2, distancing themselves at least one game from the 59-20 debacle at Florida.
The Vols are headed into an open date. Next up is a visit from Georgia on Oct. 6.
"We made progress,'' said UT coach Phillip Fulmer.
"It was a darn good win; we're glad to get it. It wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination but it sure feels good to win.''
Erik Ainge passed for career-best 334 yards (27-of-39) and five touchdowns. But only four went on Tennessee's side of the scoreboard.
The one he'd like to have back was a 54-yard interception return for a touchdown by Tyrell Johnson in the second quarter. That's three games out of four UT's offense has given up a score off a turnover.
"That's been our biggest thing,'' said Ainge, "giving people things, and we gave them seven more tonight.
"With the exception of that turnover, we did a good job on offense.''
Hard to argue there. The Vols rolled up a season-high 523 yards. That included 188 rushing - or 151 more than last week at Florida.
"We couldn't get off the field,'' said coach Steve Roberts, whose Sun Belt Conference Indians fell to 1-2. "You have to give a lot of credit to their offensive line and quarterback."
Lucas Taylor snagged two of Ainge's TD passes. Taylor had his third 100-yard receiving game of the season.
Ainge's other scores went to Coker and tight end Chris Brown. Arian Foster also ran for a touchdown.
Taylor's second score was timely. It came on a Robert Meachem-like move to turn a short hitch into a 24-yard touchdown with 13:37 to play.
That gave UT a more comfortable 45-27 lead after the Indians had marched 82 yards for a touchdown to draw to 38-27 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
It was Tennessee's best night of the year in the kicking game, if for no other reason than the Vols got to the final horn without giving up a punt-return touchdown.
Britton Colquitt looked the part of an All-American, averaging 46.8 yards on four punts. Arkansas State's longest return was 5 yards.
Daniel Lincoln hit field-goal tries of 29 and 39 yards and remains perfect at 8-for-8. It's the best start to a season ever by a Tennessee kicker.
One fly in the ointment was Arkansas State's ability to hit for occasional big plays.
Corey Leonard passes of 48 and 45 yards each led to touchdowns. A 44-yard run and a 27-yard pass set up field goals.
"We've got to eliminate that,'' said Fulmer.
Arkansas State had 377 yards in total offense, 130 coming on the ground from tailback Reggie Arnold.
"We all knew since the Cal game the main focus is on stopping big plays,'' said defensive tackle Demonte Bolden. "We gave up (a few) tonight but I think we recovered very quickly.''
Four sacks and three turnovers helped the Vols recover.
Brent Vinson and Marsalous Johnson had interceptions. J.T. Mapu recovered a fumble.
Tennessee scored on five of its seven first-half possessions. The Vols' best friend was Arkansas State defensive back Montis Harrison, who had a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time - and doing the wrong thing.
He was flagged for three penalties. In each case, UT scored on the ensuing play.
On the opening possession Harrison was flagged for pass interference on a third-and-6 play. UT was awarded a first down at the ASU 17, from where Ainge found Taylor for the touchdown.
The Indians tied it 7-7 when Leonard's 45-yard bomb to Levi Dejohnette set up a 6-yard TD pass to Chris Miller.
Tennessee came right back to regain the lead.
Vols faced a fourth-and-4, so Lincoln came on to hit a 37-yard field goal. However, Harrison was penalized for running into the kicker, which would give UT a first down.
The Vols took the points off the board in favor of a first down at the ASU 15. Ainge lobbed a scoring strike to Brown on the next play.
Lincoln's next field goal was good from 29 yards and he got to keep it. UT led 17-7.
Ainge, however, helped the Indians keep things interesting via Johnson's interception and score to make it 17-14.
Tennessee regained momentum when Coker took a screen pass from Ainge 25 yards for a score.
Less than a minute later, Vinson's interception got the ball back.
After an 18-yard completion to Taylor, Ainge found Austin Rogers for 11 more. A face-mask flag against Harrison tacked on more yards for first-and-goal at the 5.
Foster charged for the score on the next play and UT led 31-14.
A pair of Josh Arauco field goals cut into UT's lead at 31-20, but Johnson's first career interception gave the Vols a short field for a 19-yard drive in the third quarter.
Coker went 2 yards for the TD and a 38-20 lead.
His 101 rushing yards came on 15 carries, a 6.7-yard average.
"He's a dynamic football player,'' said Fulmer. "He's tough, he's got great vision and he's got great speed.'
All attributes UT found extremely useful in 2006 - and welcome back for the rest of 2007.
Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276.