Originally created 12/03/01

Win in Swamp sends Vols to SEC title game

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A few hours after Tennessee beat Florida, jubilant fans greeted the team when it arrived on campus, and coach Phillip Fulmer held up a rose as he addressed the crowd.

The Volunteers (10-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference), who moved up three spots to No. 2 after a 34-32 win at Florida, put away the roses on Sunday.

Sandwiched between a huge win over the Gators and a possible trip to the Rose Bowl is a rematch with No. 22 LSU for the SEC championship on Saturday in Atlanta.

The Vols beat the Tigers 26-18 on Sept. 29, and LSU will be making its first appearance in the title game after beating Auburn.

A win in Atlanta would send the Vols to the Rose Bowl against Miami.

"We enjoyed it after the game and enjoyed it when we got home and the incredible reception we had by the fans," Fulmer said Sunday. "That was a moment to remember, but today it's business. We have a job to do. Our focus is on how in the world are we going to get this done against LSU."

About 1,000 fans greeted the players and coaches at the university's track stadium near midnight after they flew back from Gainesville, where the Vols won for just the first time in eight tries since 1971. Tennessee had been an 18-point underdog. The loss dropped Florida from No. 2 to No. 6.

Fulmer and the players have been guarded about only thinking about the very next game, but on Saturday night they got a little ahead of themselves.

Someone brought roses to give to Fulmer and some of the players to symbolize a trip to the Rose Bowl.

"I didn't hand them out," Fulmer said. "I don't know where all that came from."

But that doesn't mean the Jan. 3 Rose Bowl isn't somewhere in the Vols' minds.

"That is a goal that is out there, but all I heard (the players) talk about was Atlanta and whoever was going to win the (LSU-Auburn) game," Fulmer said. "They'll be down to earth. We'll work really hard this week to get ready for LSU."

Fulmer went back to grading film on Sunday, and the Vols thought about their next game instead of what could happen if they win their next game.

Fulmer usually talks to the team about short- and long-term goals on Mondays but not too much to get their minds away from the next game.

"I tell them just like it is," he said. "All you have to do is look around the country - Texas, OU, Nebraska - the folks that haven't paid attention to the task at hand. They're not where they want to be. I believe we'll be focused on what we have to get done."

Tennessee keeps finding ways to revive its season. The Vols lost 26-24 to Georgia when the Bulldogs scored in the final 44 seconds but have won their last seven straight games.

Tennessee needed a last-minute field goal against Kentucky on Nov. 17 to avoid the upset to keep the winning streak alive going into the showdown at the Swamp.

Fulmer said this team has some of the same qualities as the 1998 national title winner.

"We haven't been as consistent as I'd like as a coach, but they've found a way to win big ballgames when they had to," he said. "They've played awful well on the road like that team did, and they've gotten better during the season like that team did."

Fulmer said he didn't think playing LSU for the second time was an advantage for either team.

"I have no real thoughts about it except that's who we've got to go play to win the Southeastern Conference championship," he said. "We know a lot about them. I'm sure they know a lot about us."


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