Dye didn't shoot off a return volley, but he could have. Tennessee could be a bit more selective. In 1986, former Vols fullback Kenneth Cooper was convicted of selling cocaine to an undercover policeman. Ex-quarterback Tony Robinson was sentenced in November '86 to serve 90 days for cocaine trafficking and was recently imprisoned again for violating his parole. Two weeks ago, Tennessee's top recruit, defensive back Derric Evans, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for aggravated robbery. Cobb's suspension was reportedly for failing three drug tests, and Webb was arrested last spring for stealing a check from a teammate and attempting to cash it. He pleaded guilty and is performing community service.
"People make mistakes," says Majors. "They work it out or they have to leave." Apparently, both Cobb and Webb demonstrated sufficient contrition to be reinstated in time for this season's fall camp, which didn't hurt Vols football. Through four games, Cobb has rushed for 510 yards, Webb for 310. Together they have accounted for 56% of Tennessee's offensive yardage and eight of its 11 touchdowns.
On Saturday, with the score 2-0 early in the second quarter, Cobb stepped right, then took a handoff and cut back off left guard. The misdirection worked—a huge hole appeared in the Auburn line. Instantly, Cobb was in the secondary. He cut right and high-stepped up the right sideline for a 79-yard score. How big was the play for Tennessee? "As big as big can be," answered a giddy Majors after the game.
Cobb's run also featured the hit of the day: Vols left tackle Charles McRae nearly put linebacker Darrel Crawford into orbit. "He'll get an intimidation for that," said guard Tom Myslinski. Say what? "An intimidation. It's all part of our 76 competition." Huh? "Seventy-six was Harry Galbreath's number—he finished up here two years ago. Harry was the best at intimidating people, putting them on their backs." To honor Galbreath, offensive line coach Phil Fulmer awards an "intimidation" when an offensive lineman pancakes someone.
Intimidations are on the rise in Knoxville. That's due in large part to Majors's decision to overhaul Tennessee's weight training during the off-season, with a much greater emphasis on bench presses and squats. Despite their having a strength coach named Bruno, only two Tennessee players bench-pressed better than 400 pounds last year. To put that in perspective, Auburn has two players who bench more than 500. Now every Vols starting offensive lineman can bench press 400 or more.
Tennessee nursed its 14-3 lead through the third period. But three minutes and 45 seconds into the fourth quarter. Auburn quarterback Reggie Slack's 83-yard touchdown bomb to wideout Alexander Wright, plus a successful two-point conversion, brought the Tigers to within a field goal. On the next Auburn series, Slack was intercepted, and Webb scored on an eight-yard run five plays later. Tennessee 21, Auburn 11. Auburn's Win Lyle kicked his second field goal of the game, a 41-yarder, with 2:45 remaining and, as Vols fans looked on in mute horror, the Tigers recovered their ensuing onside kick.
On the sixth play of Auburn's final drive, Slack took the snap on third-and-five at the Tennessee 31 and encountered an old nemesis: Volunteers defensive end Marion Hobby. All afternoon, Hobby had played the way Auburn's defensive linemen are supposed to, knocking down four of Slack's passes and making two tackles for losses. As Slack rolled out, he released the ball, and—smack!—Hobby swatted. The ball splashed forlornly to the turf. Slack underthrew Wright on fourth down, and Tennessee had won.
"It's timing, I guess. I play a lot of basketball," Hobby said afterward. "It's no big deal." Outside, crazed Tennesseans were whooping and wondering what to do with their goalposts, now that they had torn them down. They would have disagreed with Hobby. To them, it was a big deal. As big as big could be.