Sunday, October 26, 2003
Vols keep SEC hopes intact
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Tennessee needed a fourth-quarter
comeback, five overtimes and nearly as many hours to keep its
Southeastern Conference title hopes alive.
The 19th-ranked Volunteers (5-2, 3-2) dispelled any notions that
they would fade out of the league picture following two straight
losses with their 51-43 victory over the Crimson Tide.
"This was everything for us," Tennessee guard Anthony Herrera
said. "It was now or never. If we don't beat Alabama, we don't go
The Vols certainly didn't appear destined to go particularly
far, dropping 15 spots in the national rankings with back-to-back
losses to Auburn and Georgia while struggling to run and stop the
Then, Tennessee lost three fumbles in the first quarter, saved
from a big deficit only by a defense that staged three goal-line
stands through four quarters.
Casey Clausen took over after that, throwing a game-tying
touchdown pass to Troy Fleming with 25 seconds left in the fourth
to cap a nearly flawless drive. He then passed for three more
scores in overtime and won it with a 1-yard quarterback sneak in
overtime No. 5.
Clausen's most gutsy play, though, was a 29-yard pass to C.J.
Fayton on fourth-and-19 in the third OT.
"Our coaches and players showed a lot of character," Vols
coach Phillip Fulmer said. "These kids have been through a lot,
and I think it's something we can build on."
Alabama's Mike Shula insists the same thing is true for the
Tide, which has lost five of six games and taken three ranked teams
down to the wire at Bryant-Denny Stadium only to lose. Tennessee is
the first visitor to win three straight in Tuscaloosa.
"I just feel for our players," said Shula, whose team also
lost in double overtime to Arkansas after blowing a three-touchdown
lead. "They deserve better than this. You don't play a game like
that if you're not mentally tough, if you're not physically
Alabama enters its first open week after an injury-filled
nine-game stretch that grew in this game. Offensive tackle Wesley
Britt had surgery on a broken left leg Sunday.
Shula still likes how his team has responded to adversity.
"You look in their eyes, it's difficult yet it makes me feel
good," he said. "We've got some guys on this team that are going
to be part of our future, and our future is real good. A lot of
people may not agree with me, but that's fine."
Tennessee's future certainly looked a little brighter,
No team had scored that many points against Alabama since 1907,
though the Vols tacked on 31 points in the extra sessions after
trailing 6-3 at halftime.
Tennessee also showed a more balanced attack, running 41 times
for 209 yards and passing 43 times for 283 yards.
The Vols executed a couple of trick plays well. Derrick Tinsley
raced 28 yards on a reverse and James Banks took a shotgun snap and
ran 25 yards up the middle for a touchdown in his first play at
quarterback this season.
Clausen passed for 283 yards and four touchdowns, two to Banks,
who showed plenty of playmaking ability in an offense that had been
lacking just that. Banks was listed as the Vols' No. 2 quarterback
entering the preseason.
"He's growing as a receiver," Fulmer said. "He's quite a
The Vols must recover physically from a game that lasted seven
minutes shy of five hours. They lost two straight and three of four
after a six-overtime decision over Arkansas last season.
Next up is a homecoming visit by Duke, but after that the Vols
play at No. 2 Miami followed by three league games against teams
with losing records -- Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
"We're going to take this win and use it in all the games we
have left," Banks said. "I never give up hope. We stick