January 4, 1999
By TOM SHARP
AP Sports Writer
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) – No. 1 Tennessee can see the numbers. Florida State
its living turning a team’s rushing game into an insignificant afterthought.
Texas A&M got 33 yards against the Seminoles in 31 carries. Miami got 69,
Georgia Tech managed 80, North Carolina just 75, Wake Forest 59. The most
anybody got all season was Southern California, with 166 yards.
If Tennessee wins its first national championship since 1951 tonight
Fiesta Bowl, the Volunteers will have to break through on the ground. And they
plan to do just that.
Tennessee led the Southeastern Conference in rushing at 211 yards a
made no secret that running was its game plan for the season.
“It’s not like last year when we had Peyton (Manning),” offensive guard
Cosey Coleman said of the top-drafted quarterback. “I would assume most teams’
focus against us has been to stop the run.”
But most teams do not have a run defense like the Seminoles.
If the Vols can break through, the hero likely will be a stocky, powerful
runner who started the season as the third-string tailback.
Travis Henry gained 970 yards on 176 carries after Jamal Lewis got
the fourth game and Travis Stephens developed a fumbling problem.
“That’s what’s been so special about this team,” said senior co-captain
and kicker Jeff Hall. “It hasn’t been so much the people who have been pegged
to be successful who have gotten it done, but the people who have risen to the
occasion and maximized their potential.”
Henry nearly wasn’t around to maximize anything. He arrived on campus 18
months ago with torn cartilage in his right knee. Then Lewis emerged as one of
the top freshman runners in the country last season, and Henry contemplated a
But Henry stuck it out, and is glad he did.
“It was an opportunity to step up and show my talent,” he said of Lewis’
injury. “I prepared myself for a chance like that.”
The Vols are in the big game largely because of Henry’s production. The
running game has carried the brunt of the load as quarterback Tee Martin felt
his way through his first season as a starter.
And even though Florida State (11-1) has the nation’s second-best rushing
defense – allowing just 80 yards per game – the Vols say they don’t have any
choice in their game plan.
“We’re 12-0 doing what we do,” said new offensive coordinator Randy
Sanders. “We won’t change anything drastically.”
Henry says he’s ready.
“I’m the type of player who runs hard down after down,” he said. “I’ll go
in with the mindset that I’m going to get the tough yardage.
“I’m not going to worry about the big run. Hopefully by the third and
fourth quarter, more yards will open up for me.”
Asked if the Vols can run against FSU, Martin smiled.
“We haven’t been stopped running this year,” he said. “I’ll leave it at
Tennessee’s ground game is by no means grounded if Henry doesn’t have
game. Shawn Bryson is extremely fast for a fullback, scoring twice this season
on long runs alien to most at his position.
He’s also a good blocker and receiver.
“I think (Bryson is) going to be a big key going in against the Florida
State linebackers,” Martin said. “I think he’s the unsung hero of this