Scene of the crime
Vols return to site of title with different aspirations
Posted: Monday December 27, 1999 08:13 PM
Quarterback Tee Martin and the Volunteers are hoping for a successful defense of their Fiesta Bowl title. Brian Bahr/Allsport
PHOENIX (AP) -- The Tennessee Volunteers are back at the scene of their greatest football triumph, ready to defend their Fiesta Bowl title against Nebraska on Jan. 2.
"We'll do everything basically the same. Hopefully, the results will be the same," Tennessee coach Philip Fulmer said after he and some of the Volunteeers players, along with athletic department officials, arrived by charter jet in bright sunshine for the traditional greeting of mariachi music and handshakes from yellow-jacket-clad Fiesta organizers.
The stakes aren't quite as high for Tennessee as they were a year ago, when the Volunteers won their first national championship with a Fiesta Bowl victory over Florida State.
"Obviously we have very fond memories of being here last year," Fulmer said. "The hospitality, the incredible football game. The game itself was obviously the height of an outstanding undefeated season. The experience of the incredible hype that led up to that, being a national championship game, it was something I think was a great benefit to our football team and our football program." QB Tee Martin was confined to his bed on Monday while his teammates held their first workout at Mountain Pointe High School. Fulmer said Martin is expected to rejoin the team by Wednesday.
"He'll be fine," Fulmer said.
Martin came down with the illness while he was at his family's Mobile, Ala., home over Christmas. His mother was hospitalized with the illness and his uncle and a brother-in-law were being treated for the same condition.
Nebraska has been in the desert since Friday. The Cornhuskers (11-1) worked out Friday and Saturday at Scottsdale Community College, then took Sunday off.
Many of Tennessee's players were making their own way to Arizona and were to gather for a team meeting Sunday night. The Vols (9-2) begin workouts Monday at Mountain Pointe High School.
"Everybody has their own schedule that they feel like is good for them," Fulmer said. "Nebraska's been doing their thing for a number of years. It's worked for them. Ours has worked for us. We had a week of very intense two-a-day practices. I just feel like we caught up with anything Nebraska could have done."
This time, Tennessee (9-2) comes in ranked No. 6 and Nebraska No. 3, a matchup that has Fiesta Bowl organizers elated because it features two high-profile, highly-ranked teams that bring tens of thousands of rabid fans to Tempe.
The teams met two years ago in the Orange Bowl, with Nebraska winning 42-17, a bitter loss that set the stage for Tennessee's run to the national title last season.
This year, Fulmer sees significant similarities between his Volunteers and the Cornhuskers.
"An aggressive brand of defense on both sides," Fulmer said. "Statistically, they've done well and we've done well. Mobile quarterbacks, play-making types of quarterbacks. Both teams have outstanding tailbacks and good depth at tailback. "I think both teams use the field very well. Nebraska certainly does with their option attack. We like to move the pocket and do different things with Tee Martin. "Both teams physically like the run the football. That's been our strength, although we've had our share of plays passing the football this year as well."
Fulmer said his team's familiarity with the surroundings should help them avoid too many distractions in the coming week.
"The players being a little bit more familiar with the area will give them a chance to enjoy things even a little bit more," Fulmer said, "and hopefully turn their attention real quickly back to why they're really here, and that's to win a football game."
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