KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Tennessee lost another quarterback and Notre Dame took full advantage.
Linebacker Mike Goolsby returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter as the Fighting Irish upset the 11th-ranked Volunteers, 17-13, to continue their remarkable success following bye weeks.
Notre Dame (6-3), which became bowl eligible, improved to 24-2 since 1984 following an off week, with nine of the wins coming against ranked opponents.
The Fighting Irish gained only 216 yards, including just 75 after the first quarter.
"We won because we played great defense," said Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, who was 12-of-23 for 118 yards and a touchdown. "Mike really came up with a big play there, and (the defense) kept making big stops the whole game."
Tennessee (7-2) suffered a huge loss when quarterback Erik Ainge separated his shoulder on a dubious play at the end of the first half.
Instead of running out the clock, Volunteers coach Phillip Fulmer had Ainge drop back into a shotgun formation. Ainge fumbled the snap and suffered the injury when he was sacked after picking up the ball.
"We decided to take a shot," Fulmer said. "It went through me and I thought we could get the matchup we wanted. I take the accountability."
With Brent Schaeffer, Tennessee's other highly touted freshman quarterback, already sidelined with a broken collarbone, Fulmer was forced to go with Rick Clausen, the younger brother of former Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen.
Down to their third quarterback, the Volunteers struggled badly on offense in the second half and were held to just 58 yards rushing. Ainge completed 11-of-18 for 149 in the first half.
"Shutting down their running game was the main thing we wanted to do," Notre Dame cornerback Dwight Ellick said. "When you shut down a team's rushing abilities, you make them one-dimensional."
On his third possession, Clausen, a Louisiana State transfer, was pressured into making a critical mistake. His pass was tipped at the line by tackle Derek Landri into the hands of Goolsby, whose return gave Notre Dame a 14-10 lead with 7:46 left in the third.
"We've got to play for 60 minutes and we didn't do that," Tennessee offensive guard Mike Munoz said. "We needed to pick up their blitzes and didn't. They're very physical."
On the ensuing possession, Clausen finally provided a spark with a 39-yard completion to Robert Meachem, but the Volunteers were held to James Wilhoit's 33-yard field goal.
Notre Dame's offense also struggled in the second half after a quick start and the Volunteers reached the Fighting Irish 34 with 11 minutes left. Linebacker Brandon Hoyte came up with another huge defensive play, stopping Gerald Riggs for a one-yard loss on 4th-and-1.
Following D.J. Fitzpatrick's 39-yard field goal, Tennessee reached Notre Dame's 37, but Clausen was sacked on back-to-back plays and the Volunteers were forced to punt. Tennessee's hopes ended when Clausen threw incomplete on 4th-and-18 from the 19 with under two minutes left.
The Volunteers grabbed a 10-7 lead on Ainge's 56-yard TD pass to Cedric Houston with 2:47 left in the first half.
Notre Dame had taken a 7-3 lead on Quinn's eight-yard TD pass to tight end Anthony Fasano with 5:16 remaining in the first quarter.