27-8 win at Kentucky ends one of UT’s worst football seasons in program’s history
By Chris Silcox
Rock star Meatloaf once said “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”, but for the Tennessee Volunteers things couldn’t get much worse after a 27-8 win over Kentucky Saturday concluded what has been one of the most disappointing seasons in the programs history.
Three weeks ago following a 41-21 loss at Notre Dame, the Vols were 3-4 and needed to win-out in their final three games against Memphis, Vanderbilt and Kentucky to continue their 17-year streak of going to a postseason bowl game.
A 28-24 loss to Vanderbilt last week ruined that streak, but the Vols did avoid a last place finish in the Southeastern Conferences Eastern Division with the win over Kentucky. A 20-16 win over Memphis also helped keep UT from its worse record since going 4-7 in the mid-1970s.
With senior quarterback Rick Clausen nursing an injury, sophomore Erik Ainge drew the start and reminded fans of his spectacular freshman season when he led the Vols on a first quarter scoring drive, completing a 50-yard touchdown pass to Robert Meachem for the team’s longest play from scrimmage in ’05.
Ainge, who finished the game 17-25 for 221 yards, also connected with Chris Hannon on a 33-yard first half touchdown pass as the Vols took a 17-6 halftime lead.
Tennessee defensive tackle Justin Harrell an interception seven yards for a score in the third quarter and James Wilhoit added a 40-yard fourth-quarter field goal to put the Vols up 27-6.
An appropriate cap to the season ensued when Ainge, who also lost two fumbles against the Wildcats, was pressured while in his own end zone and threw the ball away in an effort to avoid a sack but was flagged for intentional grounding and credited with a safety, reminiscent of the his infamous LSU blunder.
Redshirt freshman tailback Arian Foster continued to shine for the Vols’ offense, rushing for 122 yards on 26 carries for his fifth game of over 100 yards in as many starts. Foster, who also caught five passes for 44 yards, had two long touchdown runs negated because of penalties.