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2007 Tennessee Volunteers

Collegefootballnews.com
Posted Dec 31, 2007


2007 Tennessee Volunteers Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Tennessee Volunteers

Recap: The Volunteers won 10 games, the rugged SEC East, and the Outback Bowl over Wisconsin, which wasn’t half bad for a program that was given up for dead at least twice last fall.  After hitting bedrock on Oct. 20 with a 41-17 loss to Alabama, Tennessee rallied for five wins in-a-row, including a couple of wild ones in overtime.  The Vols hung with eventual national champ LSU in the SEC title game, getting rare help from the defense, before bowing on a couple of inexcusable Erik Ainge interceptions late in the game.         

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Erik Ainge

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Jerod Mayo

Biggest Surprise: Winning the SEC East.  After the 24-point loss to ‘Bama, a game that was every bit as lopsided as the score indicated, Tennessee looked incapable of becoming bowl eligible, let alone beating out Florida and Georgia for the division.  With a break here and there and a timely stretch run, the Vols ended up in Atlanta on Dec. 1, ending speculation about Phil Fulmer’s future in Knoxville.       

Biggest Disappointment: When Tennessee lost in the regular season, it never was pretty.  On Sept. 15, for instance, the Vols got dressed down by Florida, 59-20, in one of the worst showings ever in this heated rivalry.  UT helped QB Tim Tebow get his Heisman campaign off the ground, allowing the sophomore to throw for 299 yards and two scores, and rush for 61 yards and two more touchdowns.           

Looking Ahead: Former Richmond head coach Dave Clawson has been hired to replace David Cutcliffe, who is trying to breathe life into Duke.  Cutcliffe’s knack with quarterbacks will be missed since Ainge is out of eligibility, and likely to be replaced by junior Jonathan Crompton.  Defensive coordinator John Chavis will be putting out an APB for pass rushers after his unit finished eighth in the SEC in sacks.

- 2007 Tenn. Preview
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2006 Tenn. Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 9-3
2007 Record: 10-
4

Sept. 1 at California L 45-31
Sept. 8
So Miss W 39-19
Sept. 15 at Florida L 59-20
Sept. 22
Arkansas St W 48-27
Oct. 6 Georgia W 35-14
Oct. 13 at Mississippi St W 33-21
Oct. 20 at Alabama L 41-17
Oct. 27 So Carolina W 27-24 OT
Nov. 3 UL Lafayette W 59-7
Nov. 10 Arkansas W 34-13
Nov. 17 Vanderbilt W 25-24
Nov. 24 at Kent. W 52-50 4 OT
SEC Championship
Dec. 1 LSU L 21-14
Outback Bowl
Jan. 1 Wisconsin W 21-17

Jan. 1 
2008 Outback Bowl
Tennessee 21 ... Wisconsin 17

Wisconsin was marching on a final drive with a chance to win the game, but Antonio Wardlow picked off a Tyler Donovan pass on the five-yard line in the final minute to seal the win for the Vols. Tennessee held a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter on two Erik Ainge touchdown passes and a three-yard Gerald Jones scoring run, but Wisconsin pitched a shut out the rest of the way. The Badger offense got a six-yard Donovan run and a four-yard Andy Crooks catch, but couldn't get in the end zone in the second half with Taylor Mehlhaff hitting a 27-yard field goal late in the third and the Vol D holding on a key fourth down play. Down four with under six minutes to play and on the Tennessee ten, the Badger chose to go for it on fourth and two and missed as Donovan, under pressure, threw his pass to Travis Beckum through the end zone. The Badgers had to go for a late touchdown instead of getting in field goal range for Mehlhaff.
Offensive Player of the Game: Tennessee QB Erik Ainge completed 25 of 43 passes for 365 yards and two touchdowns
Defensive Player of the Game: Wisconsin LB Jonathan Casillas made ten tackles, four tackles for loss and forced a fumble
Stat Leaders: Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 25-43, 365 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Montario Hardesty, 7-35. Receiving: Josh Briscoe, 7-101, 1 TD
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 14-24, 155 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
P.J. Hill, 16-132. Receiving:
Garrett Graham, 7-75
Thoughts & Notes ... 5 Thoughts on the Outback Bowl ... Erik Ainge was phenomenal on third downs for about three quarters. While the Tennessee offense struggled to keep drives going late in the second half, it finished converting nine of 18 third down chances and killed any Badger defensive momentum time and again... Where were the carries for P.J. Hill? While the Badger rushing star wasn't quite 100%, he was effective every time he touched the ball, and even showed a burst of speed with a 50-yard run. The Wisconsin offensive line got into a lather and was fantastic when it could line up and blast the Tennessee defensive line on rushing plays, but the Badger offense went away from the ground game in too many key spots. ... Tennessee got a pass rush, with three sacks and several big hits on Tyler Donovan, and Wisconsin didn't lay a finger on Ainge for long stretches. That proved to be the difference. ... The Tennessee defensive line had great stretches, but every time the Badgers wanted to run the ball, tackle Kraig Urbik and guard Andy Kemp steamrolled the right side. However, Badger left tackle Gabe Carimi had a rough game.

Dec. 1
SEC Championship
LSU 21 ... Tennessee 14

LSU outgained Tennessee 464 yards to 343, but needed a bid play from the defense to win the SEC championship. Jonathan Zenon took a long Erik Ainge out pattern throw the other way 18 yards for an LSU touchdown for the winning score. The Vols had one last big chance, but a fourth and four pass on the LSU 21 was dropped by Denarius Moore. Their final drive ended with an interception. The Tigers got two Colt David field goals and a 27-yard Demetrius Byrd touchdown catch from Ryan Perrilloux, who injured his finger, but stay in for most of the game. Tennessee played well with two Erik Ainge touchdown passes with an 11-yarder to Chris Brown and a six-yard play to Josh Briscoe.
Player of the game: LSU CB Jonathan Zenon made six tackles, broke up a pass, and picked off a pass for the game-winning touchdown. Tennessee's Jerod Mayo made 15 tackles and a tackle for loss.
Stat Leaders: LSU - Passing: Ryan Perrilloux, 20-30, 243 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jacob Hester, 23-120. Receiving: Early Doucet, 5-29
Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 20-40, 249 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Arian Foster, 21-55. Receiving: Josh Briscoe, 8-79, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Erik Ainge needed to have a flawless game to beat LSU, and he didn't. He didn't make too many big mistakes, but the ones he did come up with ended up proving to be too costly. The offensive line did a great job, for the most part, of keeping Ainge upright, it didn't allow a sack, but it did give up a bit of pressure that hurried too many throws. Arian Foster and the running game was erased from the start putting more pressure on Ainge. It showed as the game went on.

Nov. 24
Tennessee 52 ... Kentucky 50 4OT
Following a two-yard Derrick Locke touchdown run in the fourth overtime to get Kentucky within two, QB Andre Woodson was stopped just short of the goal line and Tennessee hung on to clinch the East title. Erik Ainge threw seven touchdown passes including three in overtime with a 40-yard connection to Quintin Hancock for a score in the fourth overtime, followed up by the game-winning two-point conversion to Austin Rogers. Woodson made up for a mediocre first half by going ballistic in the second with three touchdown passes while leading the Wildcats on a 17-point run to close out regulation. He had a shot to win the game with eight seconds to play, but misfired in the end zone leading to a 20-yard Lones Seiber field goal to force overtime. Keenan Burton caught an eight-yard touchdown pass to start the scoring for UK, but UT answered with a ten-yard Gerald Jones catch. Kentucky had a shot to win it in the second overtime, but a Seiber field goal attempt was blocked. The two teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter, but both teams failed on the two-point conversion attempt. The two combined for 1,084 yards of total offense 61 first downs and 827 passing yards.
Player of the game: Tennessee QB Erik Ainge completed 28 of 45 passes for 397 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions, and LB Jerod Mayo made 19 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, a half a sack and broke up a pass.
Stat Leaders: Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 28-45, 397 yds, 7 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Arian Foster, 27-118, 1 TD. Receiving: Arian Foster, 9-98, 1 TD
Kentucky - Passing: Andre Woodson, 39-62, 430 yds, 6 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Rafael Little, 24-77. Receiving: Rafael Little, 11-108

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The world seems to have wanted Georgia to find its way to the SEC title game, with the belief that it's the hottest SEC team going. Meanwhile, all Tennessee has done is win five straight to close out the year with the spotlight and the pressure on. Tim Tebow will win all the First Team All-SEC accolades, but a case could be made for Erik Ainge for the SEC Player of the Year. He has been terrific all season long leading the Vols to the title game, and he showed against Kentucky what kind of a pro prospect he'll be. While he might not have a howitzer of a gun, he makes everyone around him better.

Nov. 17
Tennessee 25 ... Vanderbilt 24
Tennessee's Daniel Lincoln connected on a 33-yard field goal with 2:46 to play for a lead, and then the Vols had to hang on as Bryant Hahnfeldt just missed a 49-yard field goal attempt with 33 seconds to play. The Commodores got up 24-9 on three Mackenzi Adams touchdown passes, but the Vols roared back in the fourth quarter on 16 unanswered points with Erik Ainge connecting with Josh Briscoe for a seven-yard touchdown and with Austin Rogers from five yards out. Vandy only came up with 270 yards of total offense to Tennessee's 350.
Player of the game: Tennessee LB Jerod Mayo made 15 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss.
Stat Leaders: Vanderbilt - Passing: Mackenzi Adams, 14-26, 139 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Cassen Jackson-Garrison, 17-83. Receiving: Alex Washington. 3-45
Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 29-43, 245 yds, 3 TD
Rushing:
Arian Foster, 19-106. Receiving: Lucas Taylor, 9-90. 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Everyone keeps waiting for Tennessee to screw up so Georgia can go off and play LSU for the SEC championship, and all the Vols keep doing is winning and winning and winning. Tim Tebow has a lock on the First Team All-SEC honors, but Erik Ainge is having a phenomenally effective year as he quietly keeps leading the way to big drives when the team needs them. Beating Vanderbilt is tougher than it might appear, but getting that SEC sealing victory over Kentucky will be a war. The Wildcats might not be playing well, but the spotlight, and the pressure, are on. The last time the Vols were on the road they were blasted by Alabama.

Nov. 10
Tennessee 34 ... Arkansas 13
Tennessee held Arkansas to 127 rushing yards and took command of the game from the start with a 16-yard Austin Rogers touchdown catch on the opening drive. The Vols got up 20-3 at the end of the first half helped by two Daniel Lincoln field goals and a 14-yard Josh Briscoe touchdown catch with ten seconds left in the half, and then they put it away on their opening drive of the second half on a 59-yard Arian Foster touchdown run. Arkansas finally got into the end zone midway through the fourth quarter on a nine-yard Michael Smith run to pull within 14, and got the ball back with a chance to make things interesting, but Jerod Mayo picked off a Casey Dick pass and took it 34 yards for a score. Arkansas committed 12 penalties for 61 yards, while Tennessee committed just three for 25.
Player of the game: Tennessee LB Jerod Mayo made nine tackles and returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 12-25, 128 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Arian Foster, 13-83, 1 TD. Receiving: Austin Rogers, 6-62, 1 TD
Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 12-22, 140 yds, 2 INT
Rushing:
Darren McFadden, 22-117. Receiving: Marcus Monk, 3-26

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Tennessee sure isn't playing like a team due to get knocked out of the SEC race. With its amazing win over Arkansas, with the best defense it's played all year against the run, the Vols still control their own destiny needing to win out against Vanderbilt and Kentucky to play LSU for the title. This game showed that the offense doesn't have to be razor-sharp to beat a great team. Arian Foster will have a hard time getting All-SEC recognition this year, but he's been as vital as any back can be for a team. He's coming through time and again.

Nov 3
Tennessee 59 ... UL Lafayette 7
It took a quarter, but Tennessee made its homecoming a laugher with 21 points in the second quarter on two short Arian Foster touchdown runs and a 70-yard interception return for a score from Antonio Reynolds. The Ragin' Cajuns took the second half kickoff 69 yards in seven plays with Tyrell Fenroy running for a 21-yard score, but that would be all their fun as the Vols ripped off 35 unanswered points helped by a blocked punt for a score from Antonio Wardlow and a 49-yard Kenny O'Neal scoring play. Tennessee outgained ULL 466 yards to 364.
Player of the game: Tennessee RB Arian Foster ran 20 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: UL Lafayette - Passing: Michael Desormeaux, 13-25, 95 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Tyrell Fenroy, 14-113, 1 TD. Receiving: Phillip Nevels, 7-51
Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 16-23, 125 yds, 1 TD
Rushing:
Lennon Creer, 7-109, 1 TD. Receiving: Lucas Taylor, 5-51

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... After a rough overtime win over South Carolina, Tennessee might have been ripe for a sluggish performance. For a quarter against UL Lafayette, the team failed to wake up, and then the overall speed and athleticism took over. Now the Vols have to gear it up for the Arkansas running game, and if this week against the Ragin' Cajuns is any indicator there could be problems. Tyrell Fenroy and ULL ran way too well.

Oct. 27
Tennessee 27 ... South Carolina 24 OT
Tennessee overcame a South Carolina comeback by forcing overtime on a 48-yard Daniel Lincoln field goal, that was pushed back five yards after a Vol false start penalty that ended up bailing out a missed kick. Lincoln nailed his 27-yard attempt in overtime, South Carolina's Ryan Succop missed his 40-yard attempt wide right, and the Vols escaped. Tennessee had a 21-0 first half lead on short runs from Arian Foster and Montario Hardesty, and a five-yard Josh Briscoe catch, but South Carolina owned the second half, as Blake Mitchell, in for Chris Smelley, ran for a score and threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Kenny McKinley, to go along with a 29-yard Cory Boyd scoring dash. South Carolina outgained Tennessee 501 yards to 317.
Player of the game: Tennessee's Eric Berry made 12 tackles, an interception and recovered a fumble
Stat Leaders: South Carolina - Passing: Blake Mitchell, 31-45, 290 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Cory Boyd, 20-160, 1 TD. Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 14-151, 1 TD
Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 26-44, 216 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Arian Foster, 19-75, 1 TD. Receiving:
Chris Brown, 5-19
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The secondary can't stop anyone, the running game was stuck in the mud, and Erik Ainge only threw for 216 yards, but the Vols still came up with the win over South Carolina and is now within shouting distance of winning the East. Over the next week against UL Lafayette, the offense has to find a groove again. Inconsistency continues to be a problem, but this team battles hard. That might be enough in this year's East.

Oct. 20
Alabama 41 ... Tennessee 17
Alabama started out the game with an onside kick, leading to the first of four Leigh Tiffin field goals, but got down 14-10 on a three-yard Luke Stocker touchdown catch early in the second quarter. And then the Tide passing game took over, as D.J. Hall caught second quarter scoring passes from 16 and two yards out to start a 31-3 run to close out the game. Tiffin connected from 39, 20, 42 and 44 yards out, and Terry Grant, in for a suspended Glen Coffee, ran for an eight-yard touchdown. Bama outgained Tennessee 510 yards to 362.
Player of the game: Alabama WR D.J. Hall caught 13 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 22-35, 243 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Arian Foster, 13-91, 1 TD. Receiving: Chris Brown, 5-28
Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 32-46, 363 yds, 3 TD
Rushing:
Terry Grant, 26-104, 1 TD. Receiving:
D.J. Hall, 13-185, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Just when you think Tennessee is about to make a major move and become a big player in the SEC race, it gets its doors blown off by Bama. The defense has been the issue all season long, and this week, the secondary couldn't handle the onslaught once John Parker Wilson got hot. While that wasn't a shock, the lack of production from the Vol passing game was surprising. The Tide secondary never let the Vol receivers breathe. With four straight home games ahead, UT needs to get back on track in a hurry with a win over South Carolina next week. Win that, and it's right back in the title hunt until the regular season ender at Kentucky.

Oct. 13
Tennessee 33 ... Mississippi State 21
Tennessee broke open a close game in the final 20 minutes on three Daniel Lincoln field goals, but it was Lucas Taylor, who had a huge day with 186 yards and a 51-yard touchdown, and Arian Foster, who ran for 139 yards and a score, that carried the Vols. MSU made it interesting with a 30-yard Anthony Dixon touchdown run and two Wesley Carroll scoring passes, but the balanced UT offense proved to be too much. The Vols outgained the Bulldogs 470 yards to 338.
Player of the game: Tennessee WR Lucas Taylor caught 11 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 22-36, 259 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Arian Foster, 21-139, 1 TD. Receiving: Lucas Taylor, 11-186, 1 TD
Mississippi State - Passing: Wesley Carroll, 18-33, 203 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Anthony Dixon, 26-108, 1 TD. Receiving: Tony Burks, 5-79, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Tennessee offensive line came up with a whale of a game against Mississippi State. While the final score, 33-21, might have been a bit close, and it took a little while to put the game away, the line allowed the offense to be as balanced and as effective as it's been all year, while Erik Ainge got all the time he needed to throw. The secondary was the only down side, giving up 203 yards to a mediocre MSU passing game, but that's nitpicking. This was a nicer road win than the Vols might get credit for.

Oct. 6
Tennessee 35 ... Georgia 14
Tennessee stunned Georgia by getting up 28-0 at halftime on Arian Foster touchdown runs from nine and 22 yards out, a 56-yard trick play pass from to Lucas Taylor, to LaMarcus Coker, and a ten-yard Montario Hardesty scoring dash. Georgia showed some life on the first drive of the second half with a 26-yard Demiko Goodman scoring grab, but Tennessee ended any comeback hopes with a four-yard Foster run. Tennessee outgained Georgia 411 yards to 243.
Player of the game: Tennessee RB Arian Foster rushed for 98 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries, while making a reception for 11 yards.
Stat Leaders: Georgia - Passing: Matthew Stafford, 16-33, 174 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Knowshon Moreno, 13-30. Receiving: Tripp Chandler, 4-33, 1 TD
Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 17-22, 165 yds
Rushing:
Arian Foster, 17-98, 3 TDs. Receiving: Lucas Taylor, 6-50

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Where has this Tennessee team been all season long? It ripped apart Georgia with the speed, efficiency, and execution everyone was waiting to see against California and Florida. Instead of the game being put on Erik Ainge's shoulders, there was balance and creativity to the playcalling, keeping the Dawgs on their heels throughout the first half. Now, despite a 3-2 start, the Vols are with South Carolina as the lead dogs in the East race. The Gamecocks come to Knoxville on October 27th.

Sept. 22
Tennessee 48... Arkansas State 27
Erik Ainge threw four touchdown passes, and for a career high 334 yards, as Tennessee's passing game overcame the ground attack of ASU. Ainge connected with Lucas Taylor for scores from 17 and 24 yards out, and he found Chris Brown and LaMarcus Coker for scores. ASU was able to stay alive with a 54-yard interception return for a touchdown, and two Josh Arauco field goals, but Ainge proved to be too sharp. His 24-yard scoring pass to Taylor early in the fourth quarter finally gave the Vols some breathing room.
Player of the game: Tennessee QB Erik Ainge completed 27 of 39 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns with an interception.
Stat Leaders: Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 27-39, 334 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
LaMarcus Coker, 15-101, 1 TD. Receiving: Lucas Taylor, 7-104, 2 TD
Arkansas State - Passing: Corey Leonard, 18-35, 199 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Reggie Arnold, 16-130, 1 TD. Receiving: Kevin Jones, 5-37
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Tennessee allowed Arkansas State to hang around for too long, but the offense was humming thanks to Erik Ainge, who played one of his best games of his career. 11 different receivers caught passes, and LaMarcus Coker ran well, as the Vols outgained ASU 188 rushing yards to 178, but it was still a closer call than it probably should've been. The defense simply isn't doing enough, so to get by Georgia in two weeks, Ainge will likely have to keep bombing, and the offense will have to find a way to get close to 500 yards. The linebackers have to start playing better.

Sept. 15
Florida 59 ... Tennessee 20
Florida showed off all its speed and talent scoring in all phases. Brandon James started off the scoring with an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown and Tim Tebow threw for two scores and ran for another, but Tennessee hung tough thanks to a 15-yard Chris Brown touchdown catch and a 96-yard interception return for a score from Eric Berry. But the Gators responded with a defensive touchdown of its own on a fumble return for a score from Dustin Doe, and then Percy Harvin put it away with an electrifying 19-yard touchdown run as past of a 31-point run to close out the game.
Player of the game: Florida QB Tim Tebow finished 14-of-19 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while running 18 times for 61 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 26-41, 249 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Arian Foster, 11-26. Receiving: Josh Briscoe, 8-76
Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 14-19, 299 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing:
Percy Harvin, 9-75, 1 TD. Receiving: Percy Harvin, 4-120

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offensive line didn't do a good enough job to get the running game going against Florida, but that wasn't the biggest problem. The secondary had to try to make too many plays against Gators running in space, while the defensive front got shoved around way too much. How many sacks did the Vols come up with? None. There wasn't nearly enough pressure on Tim Tebow, and there wasn't enough consistency on offense. Tennessee, for one of the few times in recent history, didn't appear to be athletic enough to play with Florida. Then again, the Gators will look like that against a lot of teams.

Sept. 8
Tennessee 39 ... Southern Miss 19
Southern Miss got up 16-10 late in the first half on three field goals and a 69-yard Chris Johnson touchdown catch, but Tennessee got a touchdown in the final minute on a five-yard catch from Josh Briscoe, and then the rout was on. The Volunteers went on a 29-3 run with Arian Foster running for two touchdowns and Daniel Lincoln connecting on field goals from 36 and 47 yards out. The Golden Eagles were held to 90 rushing yards and turned it over three times.
Player of the game: Tennessee RB Arian Foster ran 23 times for 125 yards and two scores
Stat Leaders: Southern Miss
- Passing: Jeremy Young, 19-36, 254 yds, 1 TD, 1 TD
Rushing: Jeremy Young, 9-48. Receiving: Chris Johnson, 8-127, 1 TD
Tennessee
- Passing: Erik Ainge, 23-36, 276 yds, 2 TDs
Rushing: Arian Foster, 23-125, 2 TDs. Receiving: Austin Rogers, 7-112, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Tennessee can't be happy with the start against Southern Miss, but there were great signs of life going into the Florida showdown. Erik Ainge spread the ball around well to a slew of receivers, and Arian Foster ran tough and well as the focal point of the attack in the second half. The line is giving Ainge time to work, and he's making the most of it by helping to make Austin Rogers and Lucas Taylor look great, and vice versa. Maintaining an offensive balance will be vital next week.

Sept. 1
California 45 ... Tennessee 31
In a wild game with a variety of big scoring plays, Cal kicked things off with a 44-yard Worrell Williams fumble return for a touchdown, got a brilliant 77-yard punt return for a touchdown from DeSean Jackson, and got two scoring passes and a two-yard touchdown run from Nate Longshore. Tennessee hung tough in a wild first half, and pulled within seven by the fourth quarter with a five-yard touchdown catch from Chris Brown and a 41-yard Daniel Lincoln field goal. Just when it seemed like the Vols had the momentum, Cal went on a 70-yard scoring drive finishing up with a 13-yard touchdown run from Justin Forsett. Despite playing with a broken finger on his throwing hand, Tennessee QB Erik Ainge threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns.
Player of the game ... California RB Justin Forsett ran 26 times for 156 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: California - Passing: Nate Longshore, 19-28, 241 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Justin Forsett, 26-156, 1 TD  Receiving: Lavelle Hawkins, 7-90, 1 TD
Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 32-47, 271 yds, 3 TD
Rushing:
Arian Foster, 13-89  Receiving:
Chris Brown, 7-54, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Lost in the defeat to Cal was a good day from QB Erik Ainge, who threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns with a broken finger. He spread the ball around well and helped keep the offense moving in the first half, but the defense didn't help out and the running game, outside of one big run from Arian Foster, failed to do enough to keep the Cal offense off the field. Cal's attack will tear up plenty of teams, but this is Tennessee. It's not supposed to give up 471 yards and 45 points to anyone. All can be forgiven against Florida in two weeks, but a loss like this makes the seat that much hotter for Phil Fulmer.

Sept. 1 – at California
Offense: With Jeff Tedford at the controls, this is basically a pro-style offense that mixes the run and the pass evenly, and puts up points as quickly as any program in the country.  The head coach will be calling plays again after a one-year hiatus, meaning trick plays will be more frequent than a year ago.  The job of distributing the ball to an array of speedy skill position players belongs to quarterback Nate Longshore, a strong-armed junior that threw 24 touchdown passes in 2006 and a few too many picks.  Although he has plenty of receivers to choose from, none is more lethal than DeSean Jackson, a field-stretcher and legit Heisman candidate.  Super sub Justin Forsett takes over for Marshawn Lynch at running back, where he’ll be running behind an outstanding veteran line.  Center Alex Mack is on the All-American doorstep after earning first team All-Pac-10 honors as a sophomore.
Defense: There’s plenty of work to be done for a Cal defense that begins a new era without its signature all-conference player at each of the three defensive units.  Outstanding recruiting by Jeff Tedford and his staff in recent years ensures that the cupboard is far from empty, but there’ll be a learning curve early on in 2007.  Of greatest concern is a pass defense that gets modest support up front and will be relying on a slew of green cornerbacks.  Sophomore Syd’Quan Thompson and redshirt freshman Darian Hagan look the part, but need to deliver once Pac-10 plays begins.  Junior Zack Follett is the budding star of a linebacker unit that has the potential to be the next best thing to USC in the conference.

Sept. 8 - Southern Miss
Offense: While it’s become fashionable for programs across the country to switch to some fancy derivative of the spread offense, Southern Miss is content to pound the ball on the ground, control the clock and let its defense win games.  Sure, the Eagles prefer balance, but in Hattiesburg, the run continues to set up the pass.  Last year’s league-leading rusher, sophomore Damion Fletcher, is back for an encore, and this time, he brought friends.  Southern Miss is deep in the backfield, which will take pressure off versatile, yet erratic, senior quarterback Jeremy Young.  His favorite target will again be tight end Shawn Nelson, a future pro with All-America potential.  For a change, there are restless moments about an offensive line that’s replacing three starters, two of which were First Team All-Conference USA in 2006.
Defense: The “Nasty Bunch” defense that’s become the trademark of Southern Miss football under Jeff Bower should be one of the nation’s top ranked units in 2007.  It’s fast and experienced, and if Bower gets his way, about to become as physical as his vintage teams of the late 1990s.  The Eagles return nine starters, including the entire front seven and five players that earned all-Conference USA recognition in 2006.  Good luck moving the ball on this veteran group.  If there’s a weak link on defense it’s in the secondary, where two new starting corners will be broken in.  One way to help rookies Eddie Willingham and Michael McGee will be to get more pressure on the quarterback than last year, when USM was No. 81 in the country in sacks.

Sept. 15 – at Florida
Offense: Now it's time to see how this baby runs. Now the Urban Meyer spread offense will do what it's supposed to with Tim Tebow at the controls full-time, and with a slew of speedy players around him. The offensive line isn't going to wow anyone, but it's experienced, and good enough to win with. The receiving corps has explosion, led by Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell, and some tremendous tight ends, and the running backs, with the emergence of smallish speedster Chris Rainey, will have more pop. Now it's up to Tebow to not only shine, but stay healthy with two true freshmen behind him.
Defense:
This is what's called giving Florida the benefit of the doubt. Anyone else replacing nine starters, needing a slew of true freshman to play big roles right away, and/or had the issues the Gators have on the line and at corner, would be instantly dismissed from any SEC East title talk much less the national championship discussion. The recruiting classes have brought in a ton of ultra-fast, ultra-athletic player for the back seven, but there isn't enough size up front, or developed depth anywhere, to hope for any sort of consistency. No, things won't fall off the map after finishing sixth in the nation in scoring and total defense, but there will be some major growing pains to fight through.

Sept. 22 - Arkansas State
Offense: Run, run and run some more. At least that's what ASU has done over the last several years, and it has the talent in the backfield to do it again with speedy quarterback Corey Leonard leading a loaded group of runners with several great backs to hand off to. Reggie Arnold is the best of the bunch, but he's one of just four good options to carry the load. Two problems with what ASU likes to do. 1. The line needs major revamping losing three key players and 2) the receiving corps might be the team's second biggest strength behind the running backs. The underutilized corps has speed to burn, but Leonard couldn't get them the ball on a consistent basis last season. That has to quickly change.
Defense: It's all up to the defensive line. The linebacking corps, despite some huge losses, will be surprisingly solid with Koby McKinnon returning with plenty of help around him. The safeties are tremendous with Tyrell Johnson and Khayyam Burns each on the fast track to All-Sun Belt honors. The corners are deep and potentially a major strength of the defense. And then there's the line, which has to figure out how to get to the quarterback at some point. The return of Brian Flagg and Brandon Rollins from injuries will be a huge boost. The 4-3 alignment works, and it should produce the league's best statistical pass defense.


Oct. 6 - Georgia
Offense: The offense was a disaster at times throughout an inconsistent season, but that was to be expected with a true freshman at quarterback, at times, injury problems at running back, and the team's best receiver out. Now, sophomore QB Matthew Stafford appears on the verge of being the superstar he's supposed to be, Thomas Brown is expected to be back at some point to help out the running game, after missing the second half of last year with a knee injury, and Sean Bailey should be the number one target now that he's back from his knee injury. The offense, at least early on, will revolve around big Kregg Lumpkin and the running game, but the line needs to produce as well as it did this spring. A mega-concern going into the off-season, now the front five appears to be a strength.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has his work cut out for him. After losing star corner Paul Oliver to academic ineligibility, the defense is woefully short on sure-thing veteran stars with only three returning starters. There's plenty of potential, speed, and athleticism, but several things have to happen for this to be nearly as good as the number eight defense it was last year. The pass rush should be there in time, but it might take the wheels of outside linebackers Darius Dewberry and Dannell Ellerbe to generate some consistent pressure early on. The secondary needs to unearth more big play options, and a number one corner has to quickly emerge. While undersized, the line is tough and should grow into a rock as the year goes on. This will be a far, far better defense after a few games. By then the coaching staff will have the right combination.

Oct. 13 – at Mississippi State
Offense: It might not be saying much, but this should be the best offense yet under Sylvester Croom. The line gets four starters back, with the fifth spot occupied by Mike Brown, a starter late in the year and the best blocker up front. The receiving corps is easily the deepest area on the offense with good talent and a world of upside, but QB Michael Henig has to stay healthy and get them the ball consistently. Anthony Dixon is an All-SEC caliber running back, and true freshman Robert Elliott should become a fantastic backup. The overall depth is lacking, so injury problems could be disastrous.
Defense: The whole will be better than the parts. The Bulldogs couldn't hold down the better offensive teams last year, and things might not be better right off the bat with tremendous concerns all over the place after losing six key starters. There's plenty of speed and athleticism, but this is a young, inexperienced defense that'll have to force more turnovers and do a much better job of getting to the quarterback. End Titus Brown and defensive back Derek Pegues are All-SEC talents who have to be disruptive forces from day one. The line needs more pass rushers, the linebacking corps has to do more against the pass, and the secondary is relying on green corners so Pegues can play safety.

Oct. 20 – at Alabama
Offense: Major Applewhite takes over as offensive coordinator and will play around with several different formations and ideas, while trying to stick with Nick Saban's run-first philosophy. He'll incorporate a little bit of spread and four-wide sets. There's one problem; Bama might not have the backs to run well on a consistent basis. The strength is in the passing game with the great 1-2 receiving tandem of D.J. Hall and Keith Brown working with rising passer John Parker Wilson. The line welcomes back five starters led by soon to be All-Everything tackle Andre Smith.
Defense: Former Florida State defensive coordinator Kevin Steele came in and switched things up to a 3-4 in an attempt to jump-start a woeful pass rush by getting more production from the outside linebackers, led by a hybrid position of defensive lineman and linebacker, manned by Keith Saunders. Wallace Gilberry and Bobby Greenwood look the part of top ends, and now they have to start producing. The biggest problem is tackle, where former backup center Brian Motley, who looked great this spring, has to be an anchor for everything to work right. The back eight should be excellent, led by all-star corner Simeon Castille.

Oct. 27 - South Carolina
Offense: This should be a balanced attack that'll rely on the running game early on and the steady play of emerging QB Blake Mitchell to be more explosive and consistent than last year. The big concern is a line that was overmatched throughout the spring as it tried to break in three new starters. Getting a push for the nice 1-2 rushing punch of Cory Boyd and Mike Davis is job one, while Mitchell will have to make quick decisions early on until things start to come together. The loss of Sidney Rice won't be a killer if Kenny McKinley handles the number one job like he's expected to and a good number two emerges.
Defense: The defense has plenty of returning experience, depth, young options waiting to step up and shine, and good stars to build around. MLB Jasper Brinkley is one of the best in America, and now his twin brother will move from defensive end to outside linebacker to help out (though he might end up back on the line). The secondary is emerging as a potential force if everyone starters to play consistently. There's speed at corner, depth and experience at safety, and an emerging star in SS Emanuel Cook. The defensive line has to be far better against the run, and it should be with the return of Marque Hall from injury and the emergence of freshman Ladi Ajiboye.


Nov. 3 - UL Lafayette
Offense: The nation's seventh best rushing team two years ago, and 11th best last year, ULL will run more than ever with the return of two-time 1,000-yard back Tyrell Fenroy, speedy Deon Wallace, and running quarterback Michael Desormeaux. The receivers aren't used much, but they're experienced enough to make plays when they get the chance. The offensive line isn't deep, but the starting five will end up fine. The team will hope for around 2,500 rushing yards, and around 60% completion percentage throwing it.
Defense: New defensive coordinator Kevin Fouqueir won't change too much from one of the Sun Belt's better defenses. Five starters return, along with a few others with starting experience, to form a solid run defense that needs to be tighter against the pass. The secondary will give up completions, but it's not going to get beaten too often. The front seven should be great with a nice blend of talents and depth to form a good rotation almost everywhere. If ULL doesn't lead the league in run defense, it'll finish second.


Nov. 10 - Arkansas
Offense: The Gus Malzahn experience quickly got pushed aside, forgetting about his spread offense to better utilize the devastating running attack. Now it'll be up to new offensive coordinator David Lee, who'll try to run a pro style passing attack, but will spend most of his time figuring out how to get the ball into the hands of the magnificent running duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The line, despite the loss of three starters, will be fantastic for the running game, but suspect in pass protection. Marcus Monk is an elite receiver, but a number two option has to emerge and Casey Dick has to throw the ball effectively and consistently.
Defense: It'll be a good defense, but there are some big-time talent losses in linemen Jamaal Anderson and Keith Jackson, corner Chris Houston, and linebacker Sam Olajubutu. There's plenty of speed and athleticism to go around in what should be a solid back seven, but everyone has to stay healthy. The line needs tackle depth with Marcus Harrison questionable after tearing his knee this spring. Overall, coordinator Reggie Herring will keep things aggressive with tons of plays in the backfield, along with lots of pressure applied by the defensive backs.

Nov. 17 - Vanderbilt
Offense: The offense is loaded with experience with nine starters returning including tackle Brian Stamper, who missed most of last year. The line should be tremendous with five senior starters that know how to pass protect and should be better for the running game. Junior receiver Earl Bennett is one of the nation's most productive playmakers and should finally start to get the attention he deserves. Quarterback Chris Nickson is a dangerous run/pass combination with the potential to grow into a star if he can cut down on his interceptions. The running backs aren't special, but they're experienced.
Defense: Vanderbilt won't have one of the SEC's better defenses, but it'll be far better with seven returning starters and plenty of experience. Most importantly, there are plenty of all-stars to build around. Tackle Theo Horrocks, end Curtis Gatewood, safeties Reshard Langford and Ryan Hamilton, and linebacker Jonathan Goff and Marcus Buggs are all capable of making All-SEC teams. The cornerbacks have to shine, a second defensive tackle has to take the heat off Horrocks, and the stars have to be stars for a major overall improvement. Coming up with more turnovers would be nice, but just being better in all areas might be enough to dramatically change the record.


Nov. 24 – at Kentucky
Offense: The Wildcat offense exploded last year thanks to the emergence of Andre Woodson as a superstar quarterback. It'll be bombs away once again, as Woodson chose to come back for his senior year and will have all his weapons at his disposal. Keenan Burton finally stayed healthy, and he became one of the SEC's most lethal receivers. Dicky Lyons, tight end Jacob Tamme, and running back Rafael Little are also back, with Little healthy enough again to be one of the SEC's best all-around offensive weapons. The problem is the line, which is mediocre at best, a liability at worst. It could be what keeps the Wildcats from being special.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Mike Archer is gone, and now former secondary coach Steve Brown will take over in an attempt to revive one of the nation's worst defenses. The run defense won't be any good again with little size up front, but the secondary should be better with excellent speed and good young prospects. It'll take awhile to see any improvement overall, but there's enough overall athleticism to expect things to be a bit better.

 

  

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