While the symbol of the rivalry may have disappeared, the dominance that Tennessee exhibits against Kentucky was again on display this weekend.
The Volunteers (1998) earned a trip to the second round of the Finebaum Invitational with a convincing 35-14 victory over their neighbors to the north.
“It may not last forever, but there’s something about winning against Kentucky that never gets old,” said Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer. “The Beer Barrel is a thing of the past, but hopefully our success will not go the same direction.”
Running back Travis Henry certainly did his part to keep the Vols in their winning ways, registering 156 yards on 24 carries and finding paydirt on two separate occasions. His 62-yard scramble in the fourth quarter put the Big Orange up 28-14 and sealed the fate of the Wildcats.
“I broke a few tackles, and once I did that I knew I was on my way,” said Henry, also known to teammates as “Cheese.”
The effort on the ground was complemented by a nearly flawless aerial display by Tee Martin, who contributed 196 yards and three scores to three different receivers.
“I had hoped to contain their passing game,” said Kentucky coach Rich Brooks, “but instead of blanketing them, we provided them with a Snuggie. I feel for guys like Andre Woodson, who really committed to improve the culture around this program.”
Woodson did a little bit of everything for the ‘Cats, passing for 258 yards and both Kentucky scores. He added 20 rushing yards as well, using his feet to help evade the constant wave of pressure from Tennessee’s defense.
“I hit Dicky for that second touchdown, and we were right back in the game,” Woodson said afterward, “but then they had that long run and the hole just got too deep for us.”
Dicky Lyons, Jr.’s touchdown catch with 10:45 to go in the fourth quarter indeed put the Wildcats within a score and gave them momentum heading into the homestretch.
Then, less than a minute later, that momentum made a powerful 180 degree turn back to the Volunteers, the Wildcats’ hopes evaporating like the dust in Henry’s wake.
Martin would put the exclamation point on the victory with a seven play, 45-yard touchdown drive that left Brooks’ team down three scores with just over two minutes to play.
The scoring was at a premium in the first half, when neither team was able to draw blood in the first quarter.
Martin then kicked his team into gear, passing for two scores in the second frame. Not to be outdone, Woodson kept his team close with an eight yard strike of his own.
“I felt good at the half, only being down seven,” Brooks said, “But they turned it on in the fourth and that was the difference. It feels like ‘Groundhog Day,’ if that movie were about a man getting kicked in the stomach every day.”
Fulmer, stomach intact, will take his team onward to face the No. 5 seed LSU Tigers (2011) in the second round.
“It’ll be interesting to see how we match-up with them,” said Fulmer. “Hopefully having a mobile passer will help slow down their rush. Hopefully somebody will remind coach Miles what’s under the field to keep him from snacking on the grass too much.”