Mississippi St 21

(2-8, 1-5 SEC)

(9) Tennessee 59

(8-2, 4-2 SEC)

Coverage: GamePlan

12:30 PM ET, November 15, 2003

Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN

1 2 3 4 T
MSST 7 0 0 1421
#9TENN 14 14 24 759

Vols remain in SEC title chase

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee needed a game like this.

Casey Clausen threw five touchdown passes, three to Chris Hannon, and Jabari Davis ran for two scores in Tennessee's (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) 59-21 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday.

Jabari Davis

Jabari Davis' two TDs helped keep the Vols' SEC East hopes alive.

The Volunteers (8-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) remained in contention for a trip to the SEC championship game in their most productive offensive showing this season.

"One down. The next one is Vanderbilt. ... The goals are still alive," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I was glad to get the win and the points."

Clausen was 20-of-33 for 330 yards before he was pulled with 46 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs (2-8, 1-5), who have one of the worst defenses in the league, lost their fourth straight game since coach Jackie Sherrill announced he will retire at the end of the season. The Vols rolled up a season-high 535 yards of total offense to Mississippi State's 288.

The Bulldogs have lost seven straight road games and 12 straight in SEC opponents' stadiums.

Tennessee's defense followed up its strong performance in a 10-6 win at Miami last week with a fumble recovery and two interceptions, and the special teams blocked a punt.

Tennessee vaulted to seventh in the Bowl Championship Series standings last week and helped itself in the SEC East division race with a decisive victory. If the Vols are tied with Georgia and Florida with two league losses apiece at the end of the season, BCS and head-to-head competition will be used in a tiebreaker. The Vols finish the season against Vanderbilt and at Kentucky.

"After Miami, we didn't have big heads. We came out today and played a hard game," Tennessee linebacker Kevin Burnett said. "We have to keep our momentum up every week."

The Vols had struggled this season scoring early in games, but they surpassed their scoring average of 24 points by halftime with a 28-7 lead.

"We wanted to come out and start fast. We've been talking about it all year long," Clausen said. "(We) threw the ball downfield, threw some touchdowns. That's a good thing."

Tennessee ended Mississippi State's chances for a rally early in the third quarter.

Davis had a 42-yard run to the Bulldogs 44, and, four plays later, Clausen found Hannon in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown pass and a 35-7 lead.

Mississippi State was forced to punt from its 24-yard line on the next possession, and Tennessee's O.J. Owens blocked Jared Cook's punt. Troy Fleming recovered the rolling ball at the Mississippi State 1 for the Vols. Davis followed with his second touchdown, a 1-yard run.

Mississippi State looked its best on kickoff returns, and the Bulldogs had plenty of those. Nick Turner had a return for 38 yards, and Fred Reid had a 37-yarder.

Tennessee scored first on Hannon's 18-yard touchdown reception. Kevin Fant led an eight-play drive, capped by a 19-yard scoring pass to Justin Jenkins, to tie the game.

But Clausen completed a touchdown pass for 12 yards to Derrick Tinsley on Tennessee's next series. Clausen also had a 38-yard TD pass to Mark Jones, who had five catches for 90 yards.

The Vols scored more than 50 points in regulation for the first time since a 59-20 victory over Kentucky in 2000. Tennessee scored 51 points in a win over Alabama this year, but it took five overtimes.

Mississippi State scored its second touchdown with 3:43 left and converted a 2-point play. Holder Joe Judge tossed the ball to kicker Brent Smith, who lofted it to Nick Signaigo in the end zone.