UAB Blazers at No. 3 Tennessee Volunteers
Final Score: Tennessee wins 17-10
This became a matchup of disappointments. After winning the SEC East as a surprise in 2004, Tennessee football entered 2005 with all but one starter back on defense and seven starters back on offense, including quarterbacks Erik Ainge and Rick Clausen. Ainge was the freshman who won the Vols the East, but he then got hurt, so Clausen carried them the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, the UAB Blazers went 7-5 in 2004 under head coach Watson Brown and was expected to take the next step under senior quarterback Darrell Hackney. So although UT was expected to win this game in a blowout, UAB was supposed to be a very good mid-major.
The Vols started off well in this game, jumping out to a 10-0 lead behind Ainge. But with Phillip Fulmer unable to find a full-time starter at quarterback, he began what would be a year-long problem by alternating between Ainge and Clausen. Clausen threw a touchdown in the second quarter, and UT went into halftime up 17-3.
However, the quarterback changes wrecked the offense, and they were scoreless in the second half. The Blazers got a fourth-quarter touchdown to cut the game to 17-10, and then Ainge came back in and threw an interception. All of a sudden, UAB had the ball in Tennessee territory with a chance to tie.
The Blazers drove to the Vols’ 12, but a Tennessee football defense that would be great all year stopped them on downs. The Vols ran out the clock, but this indicated long-term offensive problems. A horrible offense would lead to a 5-6 season, their first losing record in 17 years. And UAB would also underachieve, finishing last in the Conference USA.