Vols Next Hurdle: Saturday In Starkville

Tennessee’s climb up the Southeastern Conference divisional ladder faces its next rung Saturday at Mississippi State.

The visit to Starkville marks the second of four October league games offering the Vols a chance to swing from worst to first in one month’s time.

“We have prepared very well this week,” head coach Phillip Fulmer said after Wednesday’s workout at Haslam Field. “The players certainly understand the opportunity they have and also the challenge they have. Mississippi State is a fine football team and we darn sure have to go play well.”

UT (3-2 overall, 1-1 SEC) entered October dead last in the SEC East standings, having dropped its only conference outing in a mid-September loss at Florida while its five rivals all entered the league win column at least once. But while plenty of football remains, at least the last two weeks have swung every so slightly in Tennessee’s favor.

And the Vols may have found themselves a winning formula during the 35-14 run past Georgia.

“The first thing we have to do is not beat ourselves,” Fulmer said. “That means taking care of the football, playing the kicking game well and not giving up big plays. We’re going to stay on that theme until we get it right, but we’re making progress.”

The Vols visit dangerous Alabama next week before hosting division-leading and top-10 ranked South Carolina on Oct. 27. First up, though, is a Mississippi State squad that already owns a win at Auburn and stands 4-2 on the young season.

“They’re dangerous, physical, tough guys up front,” Fulmer said of the Bulldogs. “I told the guys yesterday, it’s natural for everyone to talk about other things, but we should understand what we have to do as a football team to get better and have the mindset that we’re going to be fundamentally better.

“That’s an area that we can make significant progress in. We’re going to maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses as we go forward.”

InSIDe the Vols -- TAYLOR NAMED CAPTAIN, CAREacter ATHLETE OF THE WEEK; BROWN ‘DARN GOOD’ FOOTBALLER:

Tennessee’s captains for Saturday are defensive ends Xavier Mitchell and Antonio Reynolds, quarterback Erik Ainge, wide receiver Lucas Taylor, offensive tackle Ramon Foster and safety Jonathan Hefney.

Taylor also was named this week’s CAREacter Star Athlete of the Week for his work on and off the field. The junior from Carencro, La., leads the Vols in receiving with 30 catches for 432 yards, having made no fewer than five catches in any game this season.

“Lucas has been a great example for our football team,” Fulmer said. “Lucas is very quiet, but you can be a leader in a lot of different ways. The best way to be a leader is by example, and Lucas has played tough and, obviously, played well for us.”

-- Tight end Chris Brown has caught a pass in eight straight games dating to last season. Fulmer calls Brown, “just a darn good football player. We are very blessed that Chris can play a lot of places for us. He’s an on-the-line guy, he’s a slot guy and he can be a fullback guy in the backfield. He’s just a good athlete who’s really smart and who knows football really well.”

-- Linebacker Rico McCoy had a career-high 11 tackles Saturday against Georgia.

-- Tailback Arian Foster leads the Vols with seven touchdowns. Tennessee’s running backs have accounted for 12 of the team’s 21 TDs.

-- Linebacker Ryan Karl broke up two passes vs. Georgia and posted four tackles.

-- True freshman Eric Berry posted four tackles against the Bulldogs and is third on the team with 23 total tackles this year.

-- The Vols have broken even or come out ahead in turnovers in all but one game this season. They were plus-2 against Arkansas State, plus-1 against both Southern Mississippi and Georgia, even against California and minus-2 against Florida.

-- Tennessee has scored opening-drive touchdowns in three games this season: Southern Miss, Arkansas State and Georgia.

-- UT’s four players from Mississippi are Josh McNeil (Collins), Xavier Mitchell (Long Beach), Casey Woods (Starkville) and Victor Thomas (Olive Branch), while assistant coach Matt Luke hails from Gulfport. MSU assistants Woody McCorvey and Pat Washington recently were members of Fulmer’s UT coaching staff.

DIRECTV CHANNEL RELEASED FOR SATURDAY’S PAY-PER-VIEW:

Tennessee’s game this Saturday at Mississippi State is being televised on a pay-per-view basis across the state of Tennessee. Wednesday, the Vol Network announced Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Eastern (1:30 p.m. Central). Randy Smith will handle the announcing duties for the game.

Cable systems across the state of Tennessee are scheduled to carry the telecast. Fans may contact their local cable outlet to order the game and receive price information. The game also is available to Tennessee DirecTV (channel 698) subscribers. No information has yet been released for Tennessee Dish Network subscribers.

DirecTV customers should order the telecast by going to the designated channel before kickoff and following the ordering instructions on their TV screen using their remote.

ESPN will offer the game to fans living outside the states of Tennessee and Mississippi via the ESPN GamePlan package. The game will be blacked out on ESPN GamePlan in those two states.

This marks only the second time that Host Communications/VideoSeat Pay-Per-View has been able to bring a Southeastern Conference road game back to the state of Tennessee. The first SEC road football game ever brought back to Tennessee on a pay-per-view basis was the UT-Arkansas game at Fayetteville on Oct. 7, 1995.

AT&T OPENS VOTING FOR BEST SEC LINEBACKER OF ALL TIME:

Finalists also announced for best SEC defensive lineman

ATLANTA ­ The Southeastern Conference has produced some of the most disruptive linebackers in the history of college football, and now fans can voice their opinions on the best of all time. It’s all a part of AT&T Inc.’s “Best of 75 Years of SEC Football,” an 11-week program that allows fans to vote for their favorite players, coaches and traditions from the past 75 years.

Fans can enter to vote on the “Best of 75 Years of SEC Football” after accessing SEC Mobile on their AT&T handsets by texting SEC to 234567. They will then receive a menu of options to choose from, which includes alerts, trivia, SEC video, news, downloads and sweepstakes. Voting began Sept. 4 and runs through Nov. 16 with results announced weekly.

Choosing the best of all time will be no easy task – just check out the list of nominees below:

Cornelius Bennett, Alabama; Billy Ray Smith, Arkansas; Gregg Carr, Auburn; Wilber Marshall, Florida; David Pollack, Georgia; Jim Kovach, Kentucky; Bradie James, LSU; Patrick Willis, Mississippi; Johnie Cooks, Mississippi State; James Seawright, South Carolina; FRANK EMANUEL, TENNESSEE; and Jamie Duncan, Vanderbilt.

Last week’s voting decided the finalists for the best SEC defensive lineman of all time, and the top three vote-getters were Eric Curry from Alabama, Jack Youngblood from Florida and Bill Stanfill from Georgia. The three finalists beat out nominees from the other nine SEC schools to move into the finals, which will be voted on during the last two weeks of the program in November. Every text message vote cast is an entry into a sweepstakes to win a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.

Story Courtesy: UT Sports Information


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