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Victory Could Move Tennessee to No. 1

November 08, 1998|From Associated Press

Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer knows more was at stake Saturday night than beating Alabama Birmingham at Knoxville, Tenn.

"I felt we needed to be impressive," Fulmer said after keeping starting quarterback Tee Martin in until late in the fourth quarter of a 37-13 victory over the Blazers.

Making a bid to become the nation's top-ranked team, the No. 2 Volunteers pushed their record to 8-0, their best start since 1956, as No. 1 Ohio State fell, 28-24, to Michigan State.

It should clear the way for the Volunteers to ascend to the top of the polls and the Bowl Championship Series computer ranking.

"It's special to be considered among the top teams nationally," Fulmer said. "We have to handle it maturely if we get there."

The Volunteers didn't overwhelm Alabama Birmingham (2-7) but led from the start, didn't have to punt and weren't seriously threatened.

"I don't think we played as well as we should have," said receiver Cedrick Wilson, who caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Martin to put Tennessee ahead, 31-3, early in the second half. "We can't have turnovers against a good team."

Tennessee fumbled three times, twice leading to Alabama Birmingham field goals.

Running back Travis Stephens agreed with Wilson, but added, "A win is a win, no matter how much you win by. Against Arkansas, we have to step it up and play hard."

Tennessee plays unbeaten Arkansas next Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

Alabama Birmingham Coach Watson Brown, who was 0-5 against the Volunteers as coach at Vanderbilt, was impressed.

"Our players, to a man, said that was the hardest they've ever been hit," Brown said.

No. 5 Florida 45, Vanderbilt 13--Doug Johnson threw for 460 yards and four touchdowns as the Gators routed the Commodores at Nashville, Tenn.

The Gators (8-1 overall, 6-1 in the Southeastern Conference) scored 28 points in the first 16 minutes, and had their best offensive game, getting 571 yards to Vanderbilt's 232.

But the offense continued to have problems holding onto the ball, committing three turnovers that Vanderbilt (2-7, 1-5) turned into 10 points.

No. 11 Arkansas 34, Mississippi 0--Clint Stoerner's two touchdown passes to Anthony Lucas put the Rebels in a hole, and the Razorback defense secured the victory at Fayetteville, Ark.

Stoerner to Lucas was good for 50 and 36 yards, the latter giving Arkansas (8-0, 5-0) a 14-0 lead with 91 seconds left in the first half.

Mississippi (6-3, 3-3) had first downs at the Arkansas 18, 4 and 26 in the first half but could not score.

Kentucky 37, Mississippi State 35--Tim Couch, falling to the turf after being hit by two defenders, completed a six-yard touchdown pass to Craig Yeast midway through the fourth quarter to give the Wildcats the at Lexington, Ky.

Kentucky (6-3, 3-3), bowl-eligible for the first time in five years, rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit as Couch made up for a lackluster first half by leading three second-half scoring drives.

Couch completed 35 of 45 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns to help overcome the running of James Johnson, whose 209-yard performance ranks No. 2 in Mississippi State (5-3, 3-2) history.

Auburn 10, Central Florida 6--Daunte Culpepper, the nation's leading passer, threw for only 182 yards and was intercepted four times as the Golden Knights (7-2) lost to the Tigers (3-6) at Auburn, Ala.

It was also the first time in 23 games Culpepper did not throw a touchdown pass.

Auburn's touchdown came on a 58-yard pass from Gabe Gross to Karsten Bailey with 57 seconds left to play.

Alabama 22, Louisiana State 16--Andrew Zow threw two touchdown passes in the final 2:24 to lead the Crimson Tide (6-3, 4-3) to their 14th consecutive win on the Tigers' home field in Baton Rouge, La. LSU is 4-5, 2-5.

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