This Week in UT Sports History – Sept. 28th-Oct. 4th

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    Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

    This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly series written by RTI columnist Lexie Little

    The 2020 season kicked off with a Vol win. No. 16 Tennessee traveled to Columbia, South Carolina, where first-half defense largely led to a victory against the Gamecocks, 31-27. The now No. 21 Vols ride a seven-game win streak dating back to a win over South Carolina last October. The streak stands as the longest among Power Five schools after Mike Leach’s air raid offense at Mississippi State snapped defending champion LSU’s 16-game streak.

    In a conference-only season, no “cupcake” games appear on the schedule. All teams chase the Southeastern Conference title, which fittingly “just means more” this year given adversity to overcome against ranked opponents and COVID-19. Tennessee holds 13 conference titles, the last coming in 1998. The Vols have not won the division since 2007.

    While the Vols face a tough road ahead, Tennessee looks to continue winning traditions. This week in UT sports history, Rocky Top Insider takes a look back at a win on the road to a conference title and more:

    Sept. 28, 1985

    Following a 26-26 tie against No. 10 UCLA in Game 1, the Vols might not have predicted just how sweet the impending season would be. In the offseason, Tennessee named former head coach Doug Dickey athletic director. Dickey and head coach Johnny Majors looked to return Tennessee to national prominence despite losing key players on offense and special teams to graduation or the NFL. Three home games opened the 1985 season, the second coming against No. 1 Auburn and running back Bo Jackson.

    More than 94,000 fans filled Neyland Stadium to watch the unranked Vols take on the top-ranked team in the country.

    No. 1 quickly became No. 14.

    The Vols defeated the Tigers, 38-20, through an intense defensive effort and four touchdowns from quarterback Tony Robinson. Tennessee quickly got on the board with 14 points in the first quarter, adding 10 more in the second. The orange and white secondary swarmed Auburn’s offense, keeping them scoreless through the first three quarters. The Vols limited Jackson, who averaged 247.5 yards in the first two games, to just 80 yards.

    After halftime, neither team got on the board in the third quarter. The nation’s leading offense seemed to click and attempted to mount a comeback in the fourth, down 24-0. Early in the fourth quarter, Tommie Agee ran for a two-yard touchdown. The Tigers added two more, but the damage had already been done. Tennessee added 14 more points in the fourth quarter. Robinson finished the day with 259 passing yards. The Vols rushed for 220 yards.

    “We played awfully, awfully hard and awfully, awfully well,” Majors said post-game. “This was one of our biggest wins at UT.”

    Auburn head coach Pat Dye said he felt the No. 1 rank might have been premature. His intuition proved correct. Washington Post reporter John Ed Bradley wondered how Dye’s team must have felt at halftime as if they “had been placed [there] by mistake.” Tennessee played with few mistakes, coming out on top in a national upset.

    Frenzied fans seemingly could not wait to storm the field. Majors said the “whole thing was beautiful,” one of the greatest things he had ever seen. For Dye, the whole game stood as a haunting reminder on the record.

    “It was just a good, old-fashioned whipping in every area,” Dye said. “And they didn’t just use the pass to do it. I just hope we’re not as bad as we looked today.”

    The Vols wondered if they were as good as they played that day. By season’s end, they had their answer. Tennessee won the conference title before defeating No. 2 Miami in the Sugar Bowl, 35-7. The “Sugar Vols” finished the season 9-1-2 (5-1 SEC) with the only loss coming against Florida, one touchdown short of a lossless season.

    Tennessee faces Auburn this season on Nov. 21. The last time the two teams met in 2018, the Vols won 30-24. Tennessee is 21-27-3 all-time against the Tigers. However, Tennessee must first face the Tigers of Missouri. The Vols take on Mizzou at home this Saturday at noon. The game will be televised on SEC Network.

    Oct. 2, 2005

    Coming off a 32-3 season in 2004, Tennessee’s volleyball team hoped to repeat its SEC title run. However, the Lady Vols lost three matches prior to conference play. With early season blips, they looked to right their course in late September and early October. The Lady Vols faced consecutive opponents from Mississippi, playing Ole Miss on Sept. 30 before facing Mississippi State on Oct. 2. They needed wins to prepare to face No. 5 Florida in Gainesville.

    The Lady Vols picked up both wins, 3-0. Mississippi State entered as a near even match for Tennessee though the Bulldogs had yet to win a conference matchup. Playing before a crowd of 364 at Stokely Athletic Center, the two teams put up back-and-forth points, tying once in the first and second sets and three times in the third. The Lady Vols edged past the western team, 30-26, 30-27, 30-24.

    Lady Vol Yuliya Stoyanova led the team with 18 kills. Chelsea Noble and Amy Morris each registered 10 digs to lead Tennessee’s defense in the team effort.

    Despite consecutive wins launching some momentum for Tennessee, Florida shut out the Lady Vols the following week before wins against Georgia and Auburn. Following a loss to Alabama on Oct. 16, the Lady Vols rode an eight-game win streak to the SEC Tournament.

    The 2005 Lady Vols, despite a worse record than the season prior, made it further than the 2004 team. Tennessee made the NCAA Final Four. No. 3 Washington knocked the Lady Vols out of the tournament in three sets.

    The 2020 volleyball season begins against Kentucky on Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. The matchup will be televised on SEC Network. Tennessee finished eighth in the conference last season, 15-13 (9-9 SEC).

    Lexie Little
    Lexie Little is a journalist from Kingsport, Tennessee, who holds a Bachelor of Communication degree from the University of Tennessee with majors in both Journalism & Electronic Media and French & Francophone Studies. She's a contributor to RTI and writes the weekly column "The Week in UT Sports History." Lexie formerly worked as a feature writer for VIPSEEN Magazine and continues to freelance for various publications as she earns her master's degree from the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.