After a sluggish start and three grueling quarters, the University of Tennessee Volunteers rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat the Akron Zips at Neyland Stadium Saturday with a final score of 47-26.
Some sportswriters were expecting the Vols to handily defeat the Zips with a 33 point spread. Apparently, they had underestimated the Zips’ head coach Terry Bowden who utilized cleverly executed tactics that enabled the Zips to keep up with the Vols through the third quarter. Bowden is part of a family dynasty of college football coaches that included his father, Bobby Bowden, who has the most career wins in college football history, and his brother, Tommy Bowden, who coached Clemson. Terry Bowden led the Auburn Tigers to a National Championship in 1993.
Akron, a Division II team, was clearly outmanned by the Vols. Despite the logistical advantage of the Vols, the Zips managed to keep the game close throughout the first three quarters, even surpassing the Vols at times, only to let the game slip away in the final quarter.
Akron was the first to score in the first quarter with a 44-yard interception. The extra point was good making the score 7-0.
The Vols responded with a 13-play drive that took Tennessee to the Akron 2-yard-line. Tyler Bray passed to A.J. Johnson to score. The extra point by Derrick Brodus tied the score at 7-7.
The Akron defense slowed Tennessee but failed to stop them. It took the Vols seven plays to cover nine yards to set up a field goal. Brodus kicked from the 37-yard-line to pick up a field goal giving Tennessee the lead temporarily 10-7.
Akron responded with a field goal of their own by Robert Stein from the 45-yard-line with 53 seconds left in the first quarter tying the score at 10-10.
Tennessee moved ahead once again in the second quarter with a field goal by Brodus from the 23-yard line giving the Vols the lead once again of 13-10.
Akron retaliated and closed the gap once again when Stein kicked a field goal from the 32-yard-line tying the game again at 13-13.
Tennessee again took the lead with a seven play drive that covered 75 yards that resulted in a 4-yard pass by Bray to Brendan Downs. The extra point by Brodus was good making the score 20-13. Akron closed the lead by three when Stein kicked a field goal from the 37-yard-line with 5:04 left in the half.
The big play of the game was a 70-yard run by Quentin Hines of Akron who ran in a touchdown with 2:14 left in the half. Stein kicked the extra point giving the Zips the lead 23-20.
The Vols wanted desperately not to end the half with a deficit. An eight play drive ended with a 70-yard gain but Tennessee was unable to cross into the end zone. The Vols had to settle for another field goal by Brodus who kicked 22-yards to tie up the game 23-23 going into the half.
With 6:43 left in the third, Tennessee scored when Bray executed a 25-yard pass to Justin Hunter who ran in to score. Brodus kicked the extra point making the score 30-23. With both teams turning up the heat on one another, neither was able to reach the end zone again in the third.
In the fourth quarter the Zips again cut the deficit by three when Stein kicked in a 37-yard field goal to make the score 30-26.
Tennessee responded with a seven play 53-yard drive but was unable to reach the end zone. Again, Brodus kicked the ball through the uprights for a 28-yard field goal making the score 33-26.
Tennessee finally broke out in 9:02 left in the game with a 19-yard pass from Bray to Hunter. The extra point by Brodus was good giving the Vols the lead of 40-26.
After the kick off Akron seemed to stall and was unable to make any headway. Following the punt the Vols began a five-play drive that covered 63 yards. Bray completed a 24-yard pass to Jacob Carter who bolted into the end zone. The extra point by Brodus was good making the final score 47-26.
The Vols defense shut down the Zips offense preventing Akron from scoring again or making any significant gains.
“Well, it was a tough game, and I knew it would be,” said Vols head coach Derek Dooley. “They caused a lot of problems with our offense, but the disappointing part was the turnovers early in the game. We spotted them 10 points on turnovers, but I was real proud of the team in the second half. They came out and dominated the second half 24-3. So that’s a good step for the team. We ran the ball well. We threw it well.
“The worst part of the game was the two turnovers and the long run (by Akron). We just screwed it up. We slanted the line and the backers didn’t adjust. We were a man free and the secondary couldn’t rally to get him down. That was the bad play of the game there, but otherwise, a pretty good game.”
Coach Terry Bowden had words of praise for his team and commented about Tennessee’s late rally.
“I am awful proud of our young men tonight,” said Bowden. “I am disappointed, but I am proud of our players for coming in here and willing to not accept the fact that they were supposed to lose, get a guarantee, and go home.
“Tennessee had too many weapons and too many skilled people. I’ve got to commend Tennessee for paying attention between Florida and Georgia. I know what the SEC is all about.
“We had five or six things that worked really well. We threw some routes and they half covered them. Then they memorized the things we were doing that really hurt them and made some adjustments each time they went to the bench and gradually started taking them away.”
By Michael Williams