Scouting the Vols & Vol game notes

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Scouting the Vols
By Michael Hicks
Vol’s record: 3-4 (1-3)
Live TV: ESPN

Offense: The Vol’s are near the bottom of the SEC on offense averaging just 19.7 points per game. Nick Stephens provide a spark last week in a 34-3 win over Mississippi State, passing for 136 yards. Since replacing Jonathan Crompton at quarterback Stephens has completed 49.3 percent of his passes for 542 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions. Running back Arian Foster has been unimpressive so far this season rushing for just 381 yards on 79 carries and zero touchdowns.

Defense: The Vol defense is lead by defensive back Eric Berry, who leads the SEC in interception return yards with 397 yards. The sophomore had a 72-yard interception for a touchdown last week. He leads the SEC with 5 picks this season. The defense is allowing 267 yards per game and teams are scoring 16 ppg.

Special Teams: Kicker Daniel Lincoln is 15-for-15 on extra points and is 58.3 percent on field goals.

The series: Alabama leads 45-38-7 in the all-time series, but the Tide has not won consecutive games over the Vols since 1991-1992 and hasn’t posted a victory in Knoxville since 2002.

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Selected Game Notes from UT:
FULMER TO WALK SIDELINES FOR 200TH CAREER GAME AS HEAD COACH
Saturday’s game against Alabama marks Phillip Fulmer’s 200th career game as a head coach—all at his alma mater, Tennessee. The Winchester, Tenn., native played for the Volunteers as an offensive guard from 1968-71 before serving as either a student coach or full-time assistant on Rocky Top for 14 more seasons before taking the program’s reins. All told, Fulmer has been on the Tennessee sideline for a total of 421 football games dating to 1968.

MISSISSIPPI STATE WIN PUTS TENNESSEE IN ELITE COMPANY
Tennessee’s 34-3 win over Mississippi State was Phillip Fulmer’s 150th triumph as Tennessee’s head coach, allowing him to join Gen. Robert R. Neyland (173) as just the second Vols coach to reach that victory plateau. UT stands alongside Michigan as the only schools with two different coaches owning 150-plus victories at their respective school. Bo Schembechler (194) and Fielding Yost (165) passed the 150-win mark during their tenures for the Wolverines.

Tennessee also is one of just five schools with three different coaches owning at least 100 victories in the program, Johnny Majors having captured 116 wins during his Vols career. Other schools are Oklahoma with four different coaches and Southern California, Georgia Tech and Michigan with three apiece.

BERRY NEW SEC CAREER LEADER IN INTERCEPTION RETURN YARDS
Tennessee strong safety Eric Berry continues to tear up record books, but last week he moved on from the Tennessee book to the Southeastern Conference book. His 72-yard interception return for a touchdown vs. Mississippi State gave him 397 career interception return yards, which was good enough to claim the top spot in the SEC record book from Bobby Wilson of Mississippi.

He is now just 122 yards from the NCAA record held by Terrell Buckley of Florida State. His record-breaking return vs. the Bulldogs helped earn him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. It was his 10th career pick and his fifth of the season.

He has returned two for touchdowns, with the first one coming on a 96-yard return at Florida in 2007. Berry has also now picked off a pass in three-straight games, making him the first UT player to do so since Jonathan Hefney during the 2006 season.

OPPOSING RUSHERS STRUGGLING
Prognosticators knew UT’s secondary was a strength coming into the season, but the defense’s ability to stifle opponents’ running game has been a pleasant surprise.

For the season, Tennessee’s opponents have rushed the ball 243 times but only once have they been able to break a play for more than 20 yards. Georgia tailback Knowshon Moreno has been the most successful rusher UT has faced thus far, netting 101 yards on 27 carries Oct. 11.

The defense also has allowed only two rushing TDs this season. The Vols have allowed just one rushing touchdown in the last 24 quarters. An impressive stat that is made all the more glowing by the fact that over the past 24 games, the Vols have not allowed a rusher to score more than once. Former Arkansas standout Darren McFadden was the last player to score more than one rushing touchdown against UT.