12:30 PM ET, November 10, 2007
Neyland Stadium, KNOXVILLE, TN
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Nearly 200 former Tennessee players pledged their support in coach Phillip Fulmer and the Volunteers in advance of Saturday's game against Arkansas.
Fulmer and the Vols (No. 24 BCS, No. 22 AP) thanked them by quieting the Southeastern Conference's best rusher and getting a 34-13 win, keeping their drive for an SEC Eastern Division title alive for another week.
"Never doubt the heart of a Volunteer," said Fulmer, who has heard fans calling for him to be fired all season.
The former players took out a full-page advertisement in The Knoxville News Sentinel on Friday, printing a letter that said the cries for Fulmer to be fired were "laughable -- if the potential consequences weren't so serious."
The letter was signed by 191 former Vols, including Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.
Tennessee (7-3, 4-2 SEC) remains undefeated at home this season and will play in the conference championship with wins in its remaining games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
With a balanced offensive attack and one of their best defensive performances of the season, the Vols looked like they could actually play for a conference title.
The Razorbacks (6-4, 2-4) struggled all day in the red zone and continually hurt themselves with penalties. They gained 10 more yards than the Vols, but held the ball for seven fewer minutes.
"It seemed like they were on the field the entire first half," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said of the Vols. "We got out of rhythm."
Arkansas' Darren McFadden, runner-up for last year's Heisman Trophy, finished with 117 yards on 22 carries, and Casey Dick completed 12 of 22 passes for 140 yards and two interceptions. It was very different from McFadden's performance last week when he tied the SEC single-game rushing record with 321 yards against South Carolina.
"He's a great back," Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo said. "But he's not going to win the Heisman Trophy in Neyland Stadium."
The Vols started and ended the first half with a bang. Tennessee drove 64 yards on the game's first possession, aided by three Arkansas penalties, and Erik Ainge threw a 16-yard TD pass to Austin Rogers across the middle with 10:15 left in the first quarter.
Tennessee also marched down the field with about a minute left in the half and scored on a 14-yard pass from Ainge to Josh Briscoe with 10 seconds left to give the Vols a 20-3 halftime lead. Ainge finished 12-for-25 for 128 yards and two touchdown passes.
Arkansas narrowed the lead to 27-13 with 8:27 left in the game on Michael Smith's 9-yard touchdown run after a handoff from McFadden out of the Razorbacks' "WildHog" formation. It was as close as the Hogs would get.
McFadden carried the Arkansas offense in the second half after only gaining 25 yards rushing in the first half. Felix Jones, the SEC's second-best rusher, left the game in the first half with a deep thigh bruise after rushing for just 3 yards.
"He's a big loss for our offense," McFadden said. "When I get tired, he comes in and keeps the offense going strong."
The Razorbacks' only first-half points came on a 31-yard Alex Tejada field goal after the Vols came up with a big stop on third-and-6. Tejada also kicked a 42-yarder in the third quarter.
Arkansas went three-and-out on its first possession of the third quarter, and Tennessee responded with Arian Foster's 59-yard touchdown run, the Vols' longest rushing play of the season that put them ahead 27-3.
Daniel Lincoln added field goals of 25 yards and 28 yards in the first half. The second field goal set a school record for most field goals by a freshman, breaking James Wilhoit's mark of 17 set in 2003.
Mayo ran 33 yards for a touchdown after intercepting a pass by backup quarterback Nathan Emert with 2:46 left in the game.
"Nobody thought we could win this game," Mayo said. "We weren't surprised because we played well on defense at home all year," he said. "Our pride has been bruised all year."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... The first half ended. Starting in the first quarter, Tennessee went on the offensive -- scoring 13 unanswered -- and only added to Arkansas' pain in the second half.
Gameball goes to... Eric Berry. Tennessee got after Arkansas' quarterbacks, and Berry led the way with two of the Vols' three interceptions.
Stat of the game... 3. Arkansas' other dynamic RB, Felix Jones, rushed for a season-low 3 yards before exiting the game because of a deep thigh bruise.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||2-12||7-16|
|4th Down Conversions||1-3||1-1|
|TD||10:15||Austin Rogers 16 Yd Pass From Erik Ainge (Daniel Lincoln Kick) |
Drive: 11 plays, 64 yds, 4:45
|FG||08:01||Alex Tejada 31 Yd |
Drive: 6 plays, 22 yds, 2:14
|FG||04:58||Daniel Lincoln 25 Yd |
Drive: 6 plays, 7 yds, 3:03
|FG||08:23||Daniel Lincoln 28 Yd |
Drive: 12 plays, 47 yds, 7:15
|TD||00:10||Josh Briscoe 14 Yd Pass From Erik Ainge (Daniel Lincoln Kick) |
Drive: 5 plays, 49 yds, 1:00
|TD||11:22||Arian Foster 59 Yd Run (Daniel Lincoln Kick) |
Drive: 4 plays, 76 yds, 1:46
|FG||07:37||Alex Tejada 42 Yd |
Drive: 10 plays, 46 yds, 3:45
|TD||08:27||Michael Smith 9 Yd Run (Alex Tejada Kick) |
Drive: 9 plays, 84 yds, 4:04
|TD||02:46||Jerod Mayo 34 Yd Interception Return (Daniel Lincoln Kick)||13||34|