There are times the game-by-game scores in the Tennessee Football Media Guide, pp. 165-173, are just a mind-numbing array of numbers, assembled neatly through seasons stretching from that first game in 1891, Sewanee 24, Tennessee 0, through recent years.
No one has had the patience to count how many different scores there have been, but there are certain scores that stand out.
35-34 . . . 37-34 . . . 15-13 . . . 23-16 . . . 16-14 . . . 45-3 . . . 20-14 . . . 35-7 . . . 10-6 . . . 24-13 . . . 31-11 . . . 35-28.
Here are the stories behind the scores:
- 35-34: The day was Nov. 9, 1991. Tennessee defeated Notre Dame at South Bend, but it was no ordinary game. The Vols trailed 31-7, 31-14 at the half, but rallied to win. Freshman placekicker John Becksvoort dreamed of winning the game with a field goal, but an extra point was plenty.
- 37-34: It was Dec. 4, 1965, when Tennessee and UCLA squared off in the famed "Rosebonnet Bowl" game at the new stadium in Memphis. The Vols and Bruins combined for 71 points in an unprecedented offensive display, with Dewey Warren scoring the game-winner at left end on one of the longest 1-yard runs ever.
- 15-13: On Oct. 20, 1928, on Denny Field in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Tennessee defeated Alabama in a game highlighted by Gene McEver's 98-yard TD run with the opening kickoff. This is the game that brought the Vol program and Maj. Neyland into the bright sunlight of big-time college football.
- 23-16: In a game no one has forgotten, Tennessee knocked off Florida State, Jan. 4, 1999, in the inaugural BCS Championship Game. Tee Martin had a 79-yard touchdown pass to Peerless Price. Dwayne Goodrich had an interception return for a touchdown and won Defensive MVP honors despite being injured and missing the second half.
- 16-14: On Oct. 19, 1985, Dale Jones had a point-blank interception off Mike Shula at Legion Field, saving the game and highlighting a season in which the Vols won the SEC title and a berth in the Sugar Bowl. The Vols lost starting quarterback Tony Robinson to a knee injury, but a found a capable replacement in Daryl Dickey.
- 45-3: It was Homecoming night, Oct. 13, 1990. The halftime score was 7-3 Tennessee over Florida, but the Vols laid a 38-0 haymaker on the Gators in the second half. Dale Carter's 93-yard kickoff return launched the onslaught. The point total included a TD pass from tight end Von Reeves to wideout Carl Pickens.
- 20-14: Take your pick of the triumph over Texas in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1951 or a similar triumph over Ohio State in the Florida Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 1996. Andy Kozar and Cowboy Hill led the way in the fourth quarter in Dallas. Kozar scored twice, while Hill had an interception and fumble recovery. In Orlando, Jay Graham had a long run, Joey Kent caught a TD pass, and Bill Duff had a key stop on Eddie George in the shadow of the Vol goal.
- 35-7 On Jan. 1, 1986, the underdog Vols, supposedly fodder for a talented Miami team that had national championship hopes and dreams, took inspiration from a heavily partisan crowd at the Louisiana Superdome and dismantled the Hurricanes. Jeff Powell's 60-yard scoring run still stands as one of the most memorable in Tennessee football history.
- 10-6 The Vols defeated Miami again on Nov. 8, 2003, at the Orange Bowl, in what had to have been a shocking upset, especially for the legions of Vol fans who had mentally chalked this one up as a loss even before the season started. Derrick Tinsley scored the game's only touchdown and recovered a fumbled punt late in the contest to seal the deal.
- 24-13 In the late afternoon of Oct 21, 1967, Vol fans knew the Vols were back, after a third-string quarterback named Bubba Wyche led the offensive side of a 24-13 victory, the first over the Tide since 1960. Albert Dorsey had three interceptions off Snake Stabler in the fourth quarter to fend off an Alabama comeback. Sophomore defensive back Mike Jones made the cover of Sports Illustrated.
- 31-11: Penn State was 10-0 coming to Knoxville for the 1971 season finale and celebration of "Majors Family Day" in Knoxville. Bobby Majors had two long kickoff returns and 44-yard punt return for a score. Conrad Graham had a 76-yard TD run off a fumbled pitchout by State quarterback John Hufnagel, outlegging the more heralded Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell down the east sideline for a touchdown.
- 35-28: On Oct. 16, 1982, the Vols defeated Alabama, 35-28, breaking a losing streak that went back to 1971. Vol quarterback Alan Cockrell threw the ball all over the field, and Mike Terry had the game-clinching interception in the final seconds. The game marked Bear Bryant's final appearance at Neyland Stadium.
Scores . . . numbers . . . nothing more?
If you look closely, however, there are some great stories behind the numbers.
Tom Mattingly is a freelance contributor.