12 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, December 4, 1998
The regular football season in the Big Ten is over. But
others conclude their schedules with conference
championship games. For them it's ...
Tennessee looks for Fiesta-clinching win
ATLANTA (AP) -Tee Martin is two victories away
from taking the Tennessee Volunteers to heights they
could only dream about with Peyton Manning as their
If the No. I Vols defeat Mississippi State in tomor-
row's Southeastern Conference championship game,
they'll likely play for the national championship in the
So much for having to rebuild in the post-Peyton era.
"It's going how we dreamed of it going," said Martin,
the junior who replaced Manning this season and guid-
ed the Vols to the first 11-0 regular season in school his-
tory. "We may not have expected it to be like this, but
we dreamed of it."
When Manning left for the NFL after giving the Vols
four brilliant seasons, no one expected Martin to fill the
void so completely.
Even when star running back Jamal Lewis sustained
a season-ending injury in the fourth game, Tennessee
never faltered on its way to the SEC East Division title.
Martin points to "our cohesiveness, how close we
are. We're a team that likes each other, we enjoy play-
ing with each other. It's not where the offense wants the
credit or the defense wants the credit."
Certainly, though, Martin deserves credit for presid-
ing over the seamless transition from Peyton's Place to
"I knew Tee had athletic ability and work ethic to be
an outstanding quarterback," coach Phillip Fulmer said.
"But he's just taken off ... I wouldn't trade Tee for any-
one right now."
After a stumbling start, Martin has risen to become
the second-rated quarterback in the SEC. The Vols aver-
aged only 359.6 yards in their first five games, but
they've jumped to 434.5 over the last six.
"I didn't know for sure how Tee would manage him-
self, how he would respond when things were not going
well," Fulmer said. "But Tee has been so even-keeled
during the whole process. Whether it's battling the
clock or battling pressure from different people, what-
ever has come up, he's handled it very well."
Despite their unbeaten record, the Vols have lived on
the edge. Or, in the view of some, they're downright
lucky to be where they are.
Tennessee needed a last-second field goal to beat
Syracuse 34-33. Four fumbles by Florida helped the
Vols defeat their longtime nemesis 20-17 in overtime.
Tennessee appeared beaten by Arkansas before an inex-
plicable fumble handed the Vols a 28-24 victory.
Lucky? Probably. But good fortune usually is a key
element in any championship season. Nebraska fin-
ished No. I last year after scoring on a pass that deflect-
ed off a receiver's foot. Colorado needed five downs to
win a game that was necessary for its title in 1990.
"The 'L' word isn't even coming into our minds,"
Tennessee cornerback Steve Johnson said. "We've
fought through a lot of adversity to get to 11-0. I don't
think anybody expected us to be 11-0."
Likewise, hardly anyone expected No. 23 Mississir
State (8-3) to be in the SEC championship game.
LSU was the preseason favorite to win the West, but
the Tigers faltered badly. Arkansas was rolling toward
the title game, winning its first eight games, before the
devastating loss to Tennessee was followed by a 22-21
loss to Mississippi State, which won on Brian
Hazelwood's field goal with seven seconds remaining.
"You shouldn't underestimate anybody," Bulldogs
defensive end Edward Smith said.
The Bulldogs have the SEC's top rusher in James
Johnson (1,345 yards, 6.1 yards per carry), but he
questionable for Saturday night's game at the Georgia
Dome because of groin and shoulder injuries.
Tee Martin and the Tennessee football team needs only one more win to advance
to the Fiesta Bowl and play for the national championship.
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Kansas State needs
victory, some help
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -
No. 10 Texas A&M is having a tough
time doing what it usually does best -
run the football.
The Aggies were held to a minus-7
yards rushing last week by Texas, which
was ranked 57th nationally in total
defense and 45th against the run.
Now, the Aggies' depleted running
backs corps has to get ready for a huge
challenge in tomorrow's Big 12
Championship Game against No. 2
Kansas State (8-0 Big 12, 11-0 overall),
ranked No. 2 nationally in total defense
and No. 7 against the run.
The Aggies had their least productive
day rushing against Texas since Kansas
State held them to minus-35 yards last
season in the Wildcats' 35-17 victory.
The Aggies (7-1, 10-2) aren't getting
caught up in statistical talk.
"Our defense was No. 2 (total
defense) last week, and look what they
(Texas) did to us," running back Dante
Hall said. "You can throw out all the stats
and stuff. That's just paper stuff.
Unfortunately, we lost to Texas, but we
can still win the Big 12 championship
and go to a big bowl game."
. Texas A&M tried to turn more to their
passing game, but that didn't work
against the Longhorns until the fourth
quarter when the Aggies almost pulled
out the game before losing 26-24.
"Kansas State's defense is designed to
stop the run," Parker said. "We are
known as a running team, but we pride
ourselves in being balanced. But if we
can't run the ball, we're going to have a
hard time winning the game."
The Aggies also had a bad rushing day
in last year's Big 12 title game, when
Nebraska held them to 13 yards and won
the game 54-15. The Aggies don't want
any more such embarrassing losses.
"We should have won the game with
Kansas State last year," tight end Dan
Campbell said. "I don't think we realized
that they were that good. We thought
they were just another team that took it
(lost to) from Nebraska. This year, we
know how good they are."
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No. 2 Kansas State hopes that its Big 12 and national championship hopes aren't
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