Vols eye third straight victory in The Swamp


Published: Wednesday, September 14, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 14, 2005 at 12:00 a.m.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Even when Tennessee had quarterback Peyton Manning, a trip to The Swamp used to spell doom for the Volunteers.
Tennessee finally won at Florida in 2001, marking the team's first victory in Gainesville since 1971. Then the Vols won again in 2003, and now they are looking for their third straight win at the Swamp when No. 5 Tennessee (1-0) travels to sixth-ranked Florida (2-0) on Saturday.
For the first time since the 1950s, there are current Vols who have never lost at Florida - a feat that seemed unattainable in the 1990s when the Gators won five straight meetings at home and in Knoxville.
But the two-game streak may be of more interest to fans than the team.
"Whether we're playing in the Swamp or playing on the asphalt it doesn't matter. We're going to have to go out there and execute the way we know how," quarterback Rick Clausen said Monday. "The media is going to try to blow it up a little bit. The fans are going to blow it up a little bit, but when it's all said and done it's just another football game."
Florida's stadium did not become known as the Swamp until Steve Spurrier called it that at the end of the 1991 season, and most teams have had trouble winning there. The Gators are 83-11 at home since 1990, and they won 30 straight games in Gainesville from 1994-99.
Tennessee's record at Florida is a little skewed since the teams didn't play each other between 1955 and 1969 and only off and on until divisional play began.
The Vols won in Gainesville in 1953 and 1995 and the next time they played there in 1971.
The game has been very important since the SEC split into divisions in 1992, and the winner almost always won the East division.
Coach Phillip Fulmer was 0-4 at the Swamp, which included two losses with Manning, until 2001 when the game was moved to the end of the season because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The Vols were 17-point underdogs going into the game and pulled out a 34-32 victory behind Travis Stephens' 226 yards rushing and a strong effort by the defense that used a prowling scheme to confuse Rex Grossman.
The only Tennessee players left from that year were freshmen who redshirted that season, but there are plenty from 2003.
Tennessee got rolling toward a 24-10 victory two years ago after Casey Clausen launched a Hail Mary pass into the end zone to James Banks before halftime.
"For the guys that have been here it probably does help," Fulmer said about having confidence from two victories. "The truth of the matter is, every year every team stands on its own. It will be just as big a challenge this year as it was all the other times we've been down there."
Spurrier was the Gators' coach in 2001, and Ron Zook was at the helm in 2003. This year, the Vols face Urban Meyer for the first time, and stopping his vaunted spread offense is just as big a concern as playing in Gainesville.
"The Swamp is always going to be the Swamp," defensive end Parys Haralson said. "It's something we look forward to. It's going to be a fun ballgame. It's going to be a hard ballgame."
Casey Clausen ended up directing the band in another rendition of Rocky Top after both victories, which angered the Gators.
His younger brother, Rick, who will start Saturday and likely rotate some with sophomore Erik Ainge, didn't want to say whether he would lead the band.
"I don't know," he said. "Whatever they ask me to do, I'll do."

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