Top-ranked Tennessee did its part by staying undefeated. Now the Volunteers have to wait and see if their performance was good enough to say atop the Bowl Championship Series rankings.
Tee Martin threw for a touchdown and ran for another as Tennessee routed Vanderbilt 41-0 Saturday.
Tennessee improved to 11-0 in the regular season for the first time ever and ended its Southeastern Conference schedule undefeated (8-0) for the first time since 1967. The 1938 team reached 11-0 with a bowl victory.
"I don't know if they really understand," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I know they're proud of what they've achieved this year, but just how big a deal being 11-0 in this conference and how big an achievement that is."
The unknown for the Volunteers is how Vanderbilt's poor record (2-9, 1-7) will affect their strength of schedule in the next BCS standings. Tennessee is competing with two other undefeated teams, UCLA and Kansas State, for the Fiesta Bowl berths that will go to the top two BCS teams.
"I don't think we did anything wrong out here today, do y'all?" asked Tennessee receiver Peerless Price, who caught seven passes for 181 yards and a touchdown.
Defensive tackle Darwin Walker said he didn't know how many doubters could be left after Tennessee posted its first shutout in 38 games dating back to 1995.
"I definitely would think it would be unfair (to drop in the rankings)," he said. "I don't know how they do that BCS thing."
The Vols, who play Mississippi State in the SEC Championship game on Dec. 5, played without injured linebackers Al Wilson and Raynoch Thompson. But the defense intercepted four asses and recovered two fumbles, which were converted into 24 points.
| Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin lost his helmet but kept his head as the Volunteers cruised past Vanderbilt 41-0 on Saturday. (AP) |
Vanderbilt coach Woody Widenhofer, whose defenses had held Tennessee to 17 points or less in each of the last three seasons, was impressed after the Vols beat the Commodores for the 16th straight time.
"They're a well-deserving No. 1. In the four years that I've been here, this is the toughest team they've had," he said.
Although it was a road game for Tennessee, the sellout crowd of 41,600 at Vanderbilt Stadium was dominated by orange-clad Vols fans who sang Rocky Top and even did the wave.
"It seemed like we were in Tennessee's house," said Vanderbilt quarterback Greg Zolman.
After struggling to score against Vanderbilt the past three seasons, Tennessee finally got on track with 17 points in the second quarter for a 20-0 halftime lead.
Martin found Price on the left sideline, and the receiver broke away from Vandy's Jamie Winborn and Brian Taylor, slipped a would-be tackle from Ainsley Battles and sprinted in for a 67-yard touchdown with 9:08 left in the second.
Travis Henry, who rushed for 97 yards on 13 carries in the first half, made it 17-0 with a 12-yard TD run and Jeff Hall kicked his second field goal just before halftime for the 20-0 lead.
Defense provided the only points in the third quarter. Tennessee linebacker Eric Westmoreland hit receiver Everett Robinson after a catch and knocked the ball loose. Chris Ramseur picked it up at the Vandy 12 and scored for a 27-0 lead.
Zolman, who managed only 83 yards passing against the Vols, said he thought the pass should have been ruled incomplete.
Tennessee added to its lead in the fourth quarter despite turning conservative and running on most plays.
Seven plays after Fred White intercepted a pass by Greg Zolman and returned it 33 yards, Martin scored on a keeper with 9:34 left for a 34-0 lead.
Walker later recovered a fumble and ran it back 26 yards to the Vandy 10, setting up Travis Stephens' 1-yard plunge for the final points.
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