A steady rain blanketed East Tennessee Saturday morning, soaking Shields-Watkins Field at Neyland Stadium, prior to the first ever meeting between the University of Tennessee Volunteers and the Oregon Ducks. The rain gave way midday, and hot, humid conditions set the stage for the clash of perennial SEC and PAC-10 powerhouse programs. The date had been circled on football fans' calendars, stretching from the East Coast to the Great Pacific Northwest, for quiet sometime, and the day looked like, well, "a good day for ducks."
The game started well for Tennessee, taking the opening kickoff down the field to set up Daniel Lincoln's 49 yard field goal to give the Vols an early 3-0 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, a fumble by Oregon return man, Kenjon Barner, was recovered by the Vols, setting up Lincoln's second "trey" of the frame, putting the Vols up 6-0. With 8:53 remaining in the first quarter, the teams were called off the field due to lightning, accompanying a severe thunderstorm, moving into the area. The capacity crowd, of over 102,000, patiently waited for over an hour before play could continue. Once play resumed, Oregon closed out the scoring in the first quarter by connecting on a 37 yard field goal of their own, to cut the Vol's lead to 6-3.
The Vols opened the second quarter scoring on a 1 yard run by Tauren Poole, capping a 5 play, 69 yard drive, giving the Vols a 13-3 lead over the 7th ranked Ducks. Unfortunately for Vol fans, it would turn out to be Tennessee's last scoring drive of the night. The Ducks converted on a 42 yard field goal with 2:56 to go in the half and then after a three and out by the Vol offense, Oregon QB, Darron Thomas connected with David Paulson from 27 yards out, to even the score at 13 as the two teams headed to the lockers.
During halftime of the game, The Pride of the Southland Marching Band honored the families and victims of the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. A video presentation of the events were presented on the Jumbotron in the South endzone. The band closed with, "God Bless America," and a visual drill of an eagle and a 30 foot Statue of Liberty in the background. Let us all never forget.
Oregon took control of the contest in the third quarter with two monster plays. The first, a 72 yard touchdown scamper by LaMichael James, followed by a 76 yard interception return for touchdown by Cliff Harris, on an ill-fated pass by Tennessee quarterback, Matt Simms. The Ducks lead the Vols 27-13 at the end of the third stanza.
As the rain continued to fall throughout the night, the Ducks poured it on in the fourth quarter, tallying three more touchdowns to close out the game.
Final Score: Oregon 48, Tennessee 13
The win improves the Ducks and Coach Chip Kelly's record to 2-0 on the season, while the Vols and Coach Derek Dooley drop to 1-1. The Vols were lead by an outstanding performance by Tauren Poole, who rushed for a career high 162 yards on 23 carries.
Next up for the Vols, the "Swamp Thing" from Gainesville, the Florida Gators. The Vols arch rival of the SEC East has struggled in their two early wins this season as they head to Knoxville for Saturday's, "Third Saturday in September," showdown. The Gators hold a one game edge in the series with a 20-19 mark against the Vols, who last beat Florida in 2004. It's the SEC opener for both programs. Kickoff is set for 3:30 EST. GO VOLS!!!!!