By Mike Griffith
From The Knoxville News-Sentinel
January 2, 2001
DALLAS - Kansas State spoiled Tennessee's football season Monday, and by no means did the Wildcats spare the rod.
'They did a great job, basically taking us out behind the woodshed and spanking us," Vols' coach Phillip Fulmer said.
K-State (11-3) proved superior to Tennessee (8-4) in every facet: The final score of 35-21 was not indicative of the Wildcats' Cotton Bowl domination on this cold, gray day.
The announced attendance of 63,465 also was misleading, as fewer than 45,000 actually braved the freezing temperatures.
K-State senior quarterback Jonathan Beasley was named the game's Most Outstanding Offensive Player after accounting for 308 of the Wildcats' 507 total yards. Beasley completed 13-of-27 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns.
He did just as much damage on the ground. A whirling dervish, Beasley left defenders strewn in his wake, rushing for a career-high 98 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown that gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead with 5:46 remaining in the first quarter.
K-State had 89 yards rushing in the first quarter and piled up 297 yards in all before the clock mercifully ran out before a half-empty stadium.
"I believed we'd be able to run the football," said Wildcats' coach Bill Snyder, whose team recorded its fourth consecutive 11-win season, "but maybe not that well."
The Vols, who entered the game ranked No. 3 nationally against the run, allowing an average of 74.3 yards per game, were just as surprised by KSU's power running game.
"We thought we had more talent and better players than them," UT defensive end Will Overstreet said. "But the way we played, we didn't deserve to be on the field with them. I don't know what it was."
Defensive tackle John Henderson, the Vols' Outland Trophy winner, was just as confused.
"We didn't come out ready to play and they put a whipping on us," said Henderson, who was limited to four tackles and was never really a factor. "I'm upset and disappointed that we didn't give it our all. It's embarrassing.
"Maybe it was the weather; some of the guys were saying they were cold before the game. I didn't know where their mind was at that time."
UT freshman quarterback Casey Clausen, who coolly led the Vols to six consecutive victories heading into the game, was simply cold on Monday. With the exception of one scoring drive, Clausen froze under the pressure, finishing 7-of-25 passing for 120 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
Clausen's finest moments tied the score at 7-7 in the opening moments of the second quarter. He marched UT 96 yards on five plays, capping the drive with a 17-yard pass to David Martin in the back of the end zone with 14:26 left in the opening half.
"On that one drive, we made plays, but after that, we just weren't in sync," said Clausen, who was also sacked twice. "They made some adjustments in their secondary."
KSU's offensive coaches also made some quick adjustments, and a 56-yard pass from Beasley to Quincy Morgan gave the Wildcats a 14-7 lead less than one minute after the Vols had pulled even.
After UT went three-and-out on its next series - one of five occasions it would do so - Morgan struck again, taking a slip screen 10 yards into the end zone to make the score 21-7 with 10:33 left in the second quarter.
"It was a lot easier than I expected," said Morgan, who had seven catches for 145 yards. "We were prepared for this game and I don't think they were. I don't think those guys even wanted to play this game. The look in their eyes once we got up, I think they kind of quit."
Morgan's second touchdown reception came one play after officials ruled an apparent fumble blown dead. Replays showed UT senior linebacker Eric Westmoreland rip the ball from Beasley's arms as the KSU quarterback was fighting for extra yardage.
"I never heard a whistle," Westmoreland said dejectedly. "He was still going forward when the ball came out."
The Wildcats were driving for yet another score on their next possession when UT freshman defensive tackle Chavis Smith deflected a pass high into the air. Jabari Greer, a true freshman cornerback, grabbed the deflection and raced 78 yards for a touchdown, cutting KSU's lead to 21-14 with 4:13 left in the half.
At the time, Fulmer felt his team had dodged a bullet. All seemed well during the halftime talk.
"We talked about the first five minutes of the second half and setting the tempo," Fulmer said. "I don't know if we were just talking, or if we really meant it."
The Wildcats answered that question by scoring on their first two drives on the second half - without throwing a pass.
Five runs netted 75 yards on KSU's opening drive, including a 12-yard TD run by tailback Josh Scobey that made it 28-14 with 13:18 left in the third quarter.
"That first drive showed (Tennessee) this is what we're getting ready to do to you," said Scobey, who pounded UT for 147 yards rushing on 28 carries and scored both KSU touchdowns in the second half. "Our offensive line showed them this is our game and we're here to be reckoned with."
Meanwhile, the Vols' offense was simply a wreck.
Scobey made it 35-14 with 10:14 left in the third quarter on a 6-yard run five plays after KSU safety Jon McGraw returned Clausen's third interception 47 yards.
"Everything I was doing, it just wasn't going well for me," Clausen said. "The thing that surprised me was the way they were dropping their (safeties) underneath. Still, for me to play the way I did was just unacceptable."
McGraw said the Wildcats played mind games with Clausen throughout the day.
"We put a lot of pressure on him through a lot of different looks," McGraw said. "It would be very difficult for any quarterback to read exactly what we were doing. That was our goal going in, and we took advantage of that."
UT senior receiver Cedrick Wilson's three catches for 54 yards made him the only Vol to catch more than one pass. Clausen looked for Wilson on many other occasions, but KSU cornerback Dyshod Carter kept him under wraps.
"I just got physical with him (Wilson) and it messed up the timing between him and the quarterback," said Carter, who had three pass breakups. "Our coach told us they're a timing team, and we just had to re-route their receivers. We knew if we got physical with them we could take them out of their game early."
Wilson said Clausen's inexperience had as much to do with it.
"We had a freshman quarterback going against an experienced secondary," Wilson said. "He just had a bad day. You really can't expect a lot out of him, though, because he's just a freshman."
The one player Tennessee has been able to count on throughout the season came through again, albeit after the game was decided.
Senior tailback Travis Henry closed the scoring by breaking off an 81-yard touchdown run with 2:44 remaining. Henry finished the game's leading rusher with 180 yards on 17 carries despite the Vols' inability to establish any sort of consistency on the ground.
"I only ran the ball eight times in the first half, and I wasn't able to get into a zone because we were down and had to throw the ball to make some big plays," Henry said. "K-State just came ready to play today."
And the Vols, many of them bundled up in cold weather gear throughout the afternoon, never got warmed up.
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