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Martin blasts NCAA records as Vols blast Gamecocks
Posted: Saturday October 31, 1998 05:22 PM
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (AP) -- These were about the only records around for Tennessee's Tee Martin to break.
"It's hard to set a lot of passing records here in only two years," said Martin, who set three NCAA records with 23 straight pass completions and four touchdowns as No. 3 Tennessee beat South Carolina 49-14 on Saturday.
But now it's Martin, not ex-Tennessee stars Heath Shuler or Peyton Manning, with NCAA marks for consecutive completions and completion percentage.
Does this finally get Martin out from under the shadow that Manning cast in Knoxville for four years?
"I'm not even thinking about Peyton. When we talk we never talk about football here, just about what he's learning [in the NFL]," Martin said. "It's nothing like, 'I want to do something that you did."'
Martin ended last week's victory over Alabama with a completion, then hit 23 more in a row to surpass Manning's school record (12), the Southeastern Conference mark of Ole Miss' Ken Austin (20) and the NCAA record for two games of 23 shared by Southern Cal's Rob Johnson and Maryland's Scott Milanovich.
Martin's 23 in a row broke the one-game record of 22 by Iowa's Chuck Long in 1984 and the final completion percentage of 95.8 (23-of-24) broke the mark of 92.6 (25-of-27) by UCLA's Rick Neuheisel in 1983. Martin threw for 315 yards.
Last year, Manning and his NFL legs ran for his life against the Gamecocks' pressure, finishing only 8-of-25 for 126 yards and a interception. But right from the start, Martin couldn't miss against South Carolina (1-8 overall, 0-7 Southeastern Conference).
He was 3-of-3 on the opening drive for Tennessee (7-0, 5-0), including a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jeremaine Copeland. Two series later, Martin hit four straight, closing with a 2-yard floater to Cedrick Wilson for a score.
Martin jammed in a 13-yard sideline throw to Peerless Price, who fell just inside the goal line marker and Tennessee led 21-0 at halftime.
Price, who had 10 catches for 165 yards, hooked up with Martin two plays into the second half, turning a simple swing pass into a 71-yard touchdown.
"He's new at it, he's getting accustomed to it and while I don't think you should ever expect too much from a young quarterback, you should expect consistency," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said.
The only drama left on South Carolina's Senior Day was whether the Gamecocks could stop Martin's perfect game.
A short throw to Copeland in the third quarter matched Austin's record. A 14-yard pass to Copeland a series later tied the NCAA mark. The record fell on Martin's 10-yard swing pass to Price.
On the next play, Martin was high on a throw to David Martin and a loud cheer went up, half Tennessee appreciation, half South Carolina frustration.
"When the cheer went up, I didn't know what was happening, I didn't know about the record," Martin said. "I though, 'Was that something good?'"
Martin kept to the ground after that as Shawn Bryson, Phillip Crosby and Travis Henry had touchdown runs.
For the Gamecocks, it was another loss in a season in which rock bottom has been hard to find, be it a last-second home loss to Marshall, a 38-0 wipeout by Mississippi State, or a defeat to Vanderbilt -- which had lost 22 straight SEC games until last week.
South Carolina quarterback Anthony Wright fumbled a snap on the first possession that led to a Tennessee's first touchdown and its walk-on kicker missed two first-half field goals. By the time receiver Zola Davis caught a 24-yard touchdown pass for South Carolina's first score in the fourth quarter, the fans in the stands were mostly wearing Tennessee orange and singing "Rocky Top."
South Carolina's eight-game losing streak was the team's longest since nine in a row between 1991 and 1992. It's the Gamecocks' most losses in a season since going 1-9 in 1966 and should keep talk going strong over the future of coach Brad Scott.
Scott said he'll give his players a few days off during an off week.
"I know it's been difficult, but I told our players to stay together, there are better days ahead for this program," he said.
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