KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—No. 3 Tennessee survived a late scare against UAB and came away with a 17-10 victory Saturday before a crowd of 107,000 at Neyland Stadium.
With the Volunteers clinging to seven-point lead, the Blazers were at the Tennessee 12 with less than four minutes left. On fourth-down, Darrell Hackney’s pass sailed over Lance Rhodes’ head in the end zone and the Vols took over and ran out the clock.
The game did not bode well for Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge, who won the starting job over senior Rick Clausen. Ainge threw an early touchdown pass, but was intercepted twice by Brandon Register, the second one setting up UAB’s last chance. Clausen threw a TD pass and an interception.
Tennessee has next week off to regroup before back-to-back road games at Florida and LSU.
Clausen and Ainge rotated in the first quarter, and Clausen appeared more calm and in control. Clausen finished 17-of-24 for 217 yards; Ainge went 5-of-14 for 57 yards.
Hackney. who dodged defenders all day, 27-of-38 for 282 yards with one interception. UAB scored its only touchdown after an interception.
Cory Anderson bobbled Clausen’s pass and Kevin Sanders grabbed it for the Blazers. Hackney led UAB on an 86-yard drive capped by his 27-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Lindsey with 7:50 remaining.
The Vols have won 11 straight season openers, but this one wasn’t easy.
UAB was not intimidated and made the Vols’ offense and defense look suspect.
Clausen led the Vols on a scoring drive in the final minutes of the first half for a 17-3.
He completed a pass to Jayson Swain, who raced across the middle and then down the sideline for a 31-yard play to the UAB 12. C.J. Fayton made a driving catch in the end zone on the next play.
Ainge threw a 3-yard pass to Chris Hannon in the first quarter. Register intercepted an overthrown pass, and UAB cashed in with a field goal.