Tennessee Beats Ohio State 20-14
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ The Citrus Bowl was expected to be a battle between two of the nation’s best offenses. It came down to defense and the weather.
Tennessee used two big offensive plays and a day full of defensive stops to down Ohio State 20-14 on a rainy New Year’s Day in central Florida.
``It’s a big win,″ said Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, who took a call of congratulations from Vice President Al Gore in the locker room afterward. ``I think it’s very significant from the standpoint of this team capping an outstanding season.″
Since losing to Florida 62-37 on Sept. 16, the Vols have had their sights on an 11-1 finish, which Monday’s victory gave them. It was the second straight loss for Ohio State, which finished 11-2. The teams came into the game tied for the No. 4 ranking.
The Buckeyes hoped to rely on the running of Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George and the pass-catch combo of Bobby Hoying and Terry Glenn, but the Vols’ defensive scheme neutralized them.
George rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown, but was upstaged by Jay Graham with 154 yards and a 69-yard touchdown sprint with 23 seconds left in the first half that turned the game around.
The Vols defense stuffed George on a fourth-and-inches at the Tennessee 2 in the first half, then came up with four big stops in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory.
``He’s a great tailback and the Heisman Trophy winner,″ Graham said of his Ohio State counterpart. ``But it was a great day for Tennessee.″
Ohio State was limited to 89 yards rushing, its worst rushing day of the season.
``We kind of expected that,″ George said of Tennessee’s emphasis on stopping the run. ``We knew we would have to work for it and things didn’t pan out.″
After Tennessee’s Jeff Hall kicked a 29-yard field goal for a 17-14 lead with 9:24 left, the Volunteers shut down Ohio State’s high-powered attack _ with help from the Buckeyes.
In its last four possessions, Ohio State lost three fumbles and threw a pass to an ineligible receiver on fourth down.
On the first miscue, George fumbled at his own 39. On the next, Hoying’s option pitch intended for George on fourth-and-1 at midfield bounced off the helmet of the lead blocker, fullback Matt Calhoun, and Tori Noel recovered for Tennessee.
On fourth-and-3 at the Buckeyes 25, Hoying was pressured by Ron Green and Steve White and flipped a desperation pass that was caught by guard LeShun Daniels. Ohio State was flagged for an ineligible receiver and turned the ball over, and Hall added a 25-yard field goal soon after for the game’s final points.
On its last possession, Ohio State moved to midfield with a minute left, but Hoying’s pass was caught and then fumbled by Dimitrious Stanley at the Tennessee 38. Craig King recovered for the Vols, setting off a wild celebration from the partisan Tennessee crowd.
``We obviously had to stop Eddie George first,″ Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. ``I don’t know how many yards he got, but I know he didn’t just run up and down the field like I was concerned he might.″
George was taunted throughout the game by Tennessee fans who chanted ``Ed-die! Ed-die! Ed-die!″ whenever things went wrong for Ohio State.
Things went right for much of the first half.
Central McClellion blocked a punt by Larry Binion that Ohio State recovered at the Tennessee 23 midway through the first quarter. George scored three plays later for a 7-0 Buckeye lead.
But the game turned after Tennessee’s Jesse Sanders and Bill Duff stopped George on the fourth down at the Vols 2 in the second quarter. After an exchange of punts, Tennessee took over at its own 20 with just 41 seconds left in the half. Graham gained 11 on first down, the ripped free and raced 69 yards for the tying score with 23 seconds left in the half.
``I don’t think there’s any question the run before the half was a huge play, and the defense stopping them on that fourth-down play was a huge lift,″ Fulmer said. ``They probably felt like they would have us blown out by then, and we were fighting them tooth and nail. I was very excited at halftime.″
The Volunteers made it 14-7 five plays into the second half on Peyton Manning’s 47-yard touchdown pass to Joey Kent. Ohio State pulled even on a 32-yard scoring strike from Hoying to Rickey Dudley as the fourth quarter started.