By Tom Mattingly
There are times the game-by-game scores in the Tennessee Football Media Guide, pp. 280- 296 in the 1919 version, are just a mind-numbing array of numbers, stretching from that first game in 1891, Sewanee 24, Tennessee 0, through the more recent years.
No one has had the patience to count how many different scores there have been, but there are certain scores that do stand out.
35-34… 37-34… 15-13… 23-16… 16-14… 45-3… 20-14 (twice) …. 35-7… 10-6… 24-13 … 35-28.
35-34 On Nov. 9, 1991, Tennessee defeated Notre Dame at South Bend, but it was no ordinary game. The Vols trailed 31-7, 31-14 at the half, but rallied to win. Freshman placekicker John Becksvoort dreamed of winning the game with a field goal, but an extra point proved to be plenty.
37-34 On Dec. 4, 1965, Tennessee and UCLA squared off in the “Rosebonnet Bowl” game at the new stadium in Memphis. It was an unprecedented offensive display, with quarterback Dewey Warren scoring the game-winner at the left end of one of the longest 1-yard runs ever.
15-13 On Oct. 20, 1928, on Denny Field in Tuscaloosa, Tennessee defeated Alabama in a game highlighted by Gene McEver’s 98-yard TD return of the opening kickoff. This was the game that brought the Vol program and Maj. Neyland into the bright sunlight of big-time college football.
23-16 Tennessee knocked off Florida State on Jan. 4, 1999, in the inaugural BCS Championship Game. Tee Martin had a 79-yard touchdown pass to Peerless Price. Dwayne Goodrich had an interception return for a touchdown and won Defensive MVP honors despite being injured and missing the second half. The game finished off a 13-0 season, best mark since an 11-0 worksheet in 1938.
16-14 On Oct. 19, 1985, in Birmingham, Dale Jones had a point-blank interception off Mike Shula, saving the game and highlighting a season in which the Vols won the SEC title and a berth in the Sugar Bowl. The Vols lost starting quarterback Tony Robinson to a knee injury but found a more-than-capable replacement in Daryl Dickey.
45-3 On Homecoming night, Oct. 13, 1990, the halftime score was 7-3, Tennessee over Florida. The Vols erupted in the second half to outscore the Gators 38-0. Dale Carter’s 93- yard kickoff return launched the onslaught. The point total included a TD pass from tight end Von Reeves to wideout Carl Pickens.
20-14 Take your pick of the triumph over Texas in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1951, or a similar triumph over Ohio State in the Florida Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 1996. Andy Kozar and Cowboy Hill led the way in the fourth quarter in Dallas, as Kozar scored twice, while Hill had an interception and fumble recovery. In Orlando, Jay Graham had a long TD run, Joey Kent caught a TD pass, and Bill Duff had a key fourth-down stop on Eddie George in the shadow of the Vol goal.
35-7 On Jan. 1, 1986, the underdog Vols, supposedly fodder for a Miami team that had national championship aspirations, took inspiration from a heavily partisan Sugar Bowl crowd and dismantled the Hurricanes. Jeff Powell’s 60-yard scoring run in the third quarter stands as one of the most memorable jaunts in Tennessee football history.
10-6 The Vols defeated Miami on Nov. 8, 2003, at the Orange Bowl. It was a shocking upset, especially for those Vol fans who had mentally chalked this one up as a loss. Derrick Tinsley scored the game’s only touchdown and recovered a fumbled punt late in the contest to seal the deal.
24-13 The trip home up I-59 to Big Orange country was fun. Third-string quarterback Bubba Wyche led the first triumph over the Tide since 1960. Albert Dorsey had three interceptions off Snake Stabler in the fourth quarter to fend off an Alabama comeback. Sophomore defensive back Mike Jones made the next week’s cover of Sports Illustrated.
35-28 On Oct. 16, 1982, the Vols defeated Alabama, 35-28, breaking a losing streak that dated to 1971. Alan Cockrell threw the ball all over the field, and Mike Terry had the gameclinching interception in the final seconds. The game marked Bear Bryant’s final appearance at Neyland Stadium.
31-11 Penn State was 10-0 coming to Knoxville for the 1971 home season finale on Dec. 4 and the celebration of “Majors Family Day.” Bobby Majors had two long kickoff returns and a 44-yard punt return for a score. Conrad Graham had a 76-yard TD run off a fumbled pitchout by State quarterback John Hufnagel.
If you look closely, there are some great stories behind the scores.