Tennessee vs. Southern Miss Football Game Notes

GAME 2: Vols Face Preseason CUSA Favorite Southern Miss

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Tennessee-Southern Miss Series History/Notes

Tennessee owns a perfect 4-0 record in its all-time gridiron series with Southern Mississippi, which dates to 1950. All four meetings took place in Knoxville, and two of the four wins were shutouts. The Vols posted a 56-0 triumph in 1950, and the three most recent clashes all have come during the Phillip Fulmer era. Fulmer’s Vols defeated the Eagles 42-0 in 1995, 44-20 in 1997 and 19-16 in 2000.

Fulmer is 13-1 all-time against current members of Conference USA (1-0 vs. East Carolina, 1-0 vs. Houston, 2-0 vs. Marshall, 6-1 vs. Memphis, 1-0 vs. Southern Miss and 2-0 vs. UAB) and has never lost to a C-USA team at Neyland Stadium.

Four players on Tennessee’s 2007 roster—Josh McNeil (Collins), Xavier Mitchell (Long Beach), Victor Thomas (Olive Branch) and Casey Woods (Starkville)—hail from the state of Mississippi. Second-year tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Mate Luke is a native of Gulfport, Miss.

In all-time home-openers, the Big Orange have compiled an 87-18-5 (.790) record. The Vols’ last home-opening loss was a 31-0 setback against Florida on Sept. 17, 1994.

'Big Orange Blast' Set for Thursday

The University of Tennessee Athletics Department in conjunction with Host Communications/The Vol Network will host the first-ever "Big Orange Blast" on Thursday, Sept. 6 in Market Square.

The "Big Orange Blast" will be a free community-wide pep rally to kick-off the 2007 UT home football season. Festivities begin at 6 p.m. with performances by Kimberly Ainge, Waycross and Jason D. Williams. Tennessee Head Football Coach Phillip Fulmer and select members of the Tennessee football team will participate with the Pride of the Southland Marching Band, UT cheerleaders and Smokey at a pep rally.

Big Orange Blast Information

PK Lincoln Solid In Debut

One of Tennessee’s biggest special teams challenges heading into the 2007 season was the effort to replace departed placekicker James Wilhoit. A four-year starter for the Vols from 2003-06, Wilhoit ranks second on the school’s all-time scoring chart with 325 career points.

Redshirt freshman Daniel Lincoln performed well last Saturday at California in his debut as Tennessee’s new placekicker. The Ocala, Fla., native made his lone field-goal attempt—hitting a 41-yarder to provide UT’s only fourth-quarter points—and was a perfect 4-for-4 on extra-point tries.

Mitchell Status Uncertain

Senior defensive end Xavier Mitchell entered this season as one of Tennessee’s top performers along the defensive front and was selected as one of four captains for last weekend’s season-opener at Cal. Unfortunately, however, Mitchell was injured while attempting to make a tackle during the fourth quarter against the Golden Bears and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher.

Mitchell was immediately taken to the hospital but was released in time to catch the team flight back to Knoxville. The Long Beach, Miss., native has been diagnosed with a mild concussion and is expected to return to practice by Wednesday. His status for Saturday’s game against Southern Miss is uncertain.

Brown Has Big Day At Cal

Senior tight end Chris Brown knew he’d have to step up early this season following a preseason injury to fellow senior tight end Brad Cottam (wrist). And last weekend at Cal, Brown proved to be a reliable target for Vols quarterback Erik Ainge.

Brown—who entered the game with two career touchdown catches—hauled in a pair of scoring strikes from Ainge, doubling his career scoring total. Brown totaled 54 yards on a team-high seven catches against the Golden Bears, including a 27-yard reception that highlighted his ability to find gaps in coverages downfield.

Interestingly, three of Brown’s four career touchdowns have come in season-opening games against Cal.

UT Undefeated At Home Versus CUSA Foes

The Volunteers have never lost a home game to a current member of Conference USA.

Tennessee owns an all-time record of 45-4 (.918) against current Conference USA teams, and that includes an unblemished 32-0 mark at home. All four of UT’s wins over Southern Miss have taken place in Knoxville.

Opposing Rushers Struggle to Hit 100

Tennessee’s defense has allowed just six opposing ballcarriers to rush for at least 100 yards in the last 38 games. During that span, the opponents’ top rusher has averaged 79.3 yards per game.

Penn State’s Tony Hunt is the most recent back to hit the 100-yard mark in a game against Tennessee, gaining 158 yards on 31 carries in the 2007 Outback Bowl.

UNLV’s Dominique Dorsey (121 yards in the 2004 season-opener), current NFL standout Carnell “Cadillac” Williams (100 yards in the 2004 SEC Championship Game), Florida’s DeShawn Wynn (104 yards in 2006), Arkansas’ Darren McFadden (181 yards in 2006) and Kentucky’s Rafael Little (119 yards in 2006) are the only other backs to reach 100 yards against UT in the last 38 games.

Among the backs who recently came up short in their quest for 100 yards are such names as Ronnie Brown, Kenneth Darby (twice), Joseph Addai, Thomas Brown, Darius Walker and Marshawn Lynch.

Career Starts Record Within Reach For Hefney

Senior free safety Jonathan Hefney has a chance to stand atop Tennessee’s all-time list for starts by a position player,* as he enters 2007 with a streak of 37 consecutive starts.

Former center and current Green Bay Packer Scott Wells (2000-03) made a school-record 49 straight starts, but Hefney could potentially tie that mark if Tennessee makes a bowl appearance. Should the Vols play in the SEC Championship Game prior to a bowl appearance, Hefney would have a shot at 50 straight starts.

Hefney has played in 38 career games. The 2004 season-opener against UNLV is the only game during his career in which he did not start.

*Placekicker Jeff Hall started 50 straight games from 1995-98

Berry Becomes Third Fulmer True Freshman To Start In Debut

With his start last Saturday at Cal, rookie defensive back Eric Berry became the first defensive player and only the third player overall in the Philip Fulmer era to start a season-opener as a true freshman.

The Vols’ first defensive alignment against the Golden Bears was a nickel package with just three down linemen. Berry served as the fifth defensive back, and he went on to total seven tackles in his college debut on national television.

True freshman Michael Munoz started the 2000 season opener against Southern Miss at right tackle and went on to claim Freshman All-SEC honors that season as well as All-SEC and All-America honors in his senior campaign (2004).

The only other true freshman to start a season-opener under Fulmer was quarterback Brent Schaeffer in 2004. Schaeffer gave way to Erik Ainge in the fourth game of that season.

14 Vols Make Debut In Season-Opener

A total of 14 Vols made their Tennessee debuts last Saturday at Cal. Included in that group were five true freshmen: cornerback Eric Berry (who started), tailback Lennon Creer, wide receiver Denarius Moore, wide receiver Brent Vinson and defensive end Chris Walker.

The other Vols who took the field for the first time in Orange and White were: punter/kicker Chad Cunningham, fullback Ryan Hill, placekicker Daniel Lincoln, defensive back Nevin McKenzie, wide receiver Kenny O’Neal, linebacker Nick Reveiz, tight end Luke Stocker, linebacker LaMarcus Thompson and defensive back DeAngelo Willingham.