52 - 50 Final - 5OT
  for this game

Tennessee outlasts Kentucky in four overtimes

Nov 25, 2007 - 1:45 AM LEXINGTON, Kentucky (Ticker) -- After 4 1/2 hours of huge plays and dramatic momentum swings, Antonio Reynolds made a final defensive stop that sent Tennessee into the Southeastern Conference championship game.

Reynolds sacked Andre' Woodson on a two-point conversion attempt as No. 19 Tennessee escaped with a 52-50 quadruple-overtime victory over Kentucky on Saturday.

The Volunteers (9-3, 6-2 SEC East) survived a fourth-quarter collapse in which they squandered a 17-point lead to advance to next week's SEC title game against Louisiana State.

Tennessee posted its 23rd straight victory over Kentucky, extending the longest active winning streak over one opponent in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

"Our team has some shortcomings in some areas," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "But heart and fight aren't one of them. I think at one time during the season we were 1-2, and everybody had given us up for dead."

The two quarterbacks in Saturday's contest combined for 13 touchdown passes and more than 800 yards.

Woodson completed 39-of-62 passes for 430 yards and six touchdowns, while Tennessee's Erik Ainge was 28-of-45 for 397 yards and seven TDs.

"I've never played four overtimes to win a game, especially under these circumstances," Ainge said.

The Volunteers appeared to be in control, opening a 31-14 lead late in the third quarter. But Kentucky rallied behind the inspired play of Woodson, who threw five of his passes after intermission.

"That's a classic football game right there," Fulmer said. "It's a classic football game that both teams will be talking about for a long time."

The Wildcats (7-5, 3-5 SEC East) forced overtime on Lones Seiber's 18-yard field goal as time expired.

Not to be outdone, Ainge fired a 40-yard TD pass to Quinton Hancock on the first play of the fourth overtime.

Tennessee had a chance to win in the previous overtime after tying the contest, 44-44, on Ainge's 13-yard TD pass to Austin Rogers.

But Arian Foster was stopped on the two-point conversion and was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, moving the Volunteers back 15 yards on their next possession.

Ainge was undeterred, hitting a wide-open Hancock inside the 10 for an easy score. He also hit Rogers for the two-point conversion.

Kentucky answered on Derrick Locke's three-yard TD, but Woodson had no chance on the conversion attempt as Reynolds tackled him three yards short of the end zone.

"Andre' was looking and couldn't see anybody," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "Then, he tried to scramble and didn't see the guy coming around behind him."

"This loss is definitely No. 1 on my list of tough losses," Wildcats receiver Keenan Burton added. "There are no words to describe how we're feeling right now."

After Woodson and Ainge traded TD passes on the first possession of overtime, linebacker Sam Maxwell gave Kentucky a chance to win, intercepting a deflected pass.

However, tackle Dan Williams kept alive the Volunteers' hopes by blocking Seiber's 35-yard field goal attempt, forcing a third overtime.

"It happened so fast," Williams said. "It was a desperation block, and we knew we would lose if we didn't block it."

Tennessee won its final five regular-season games to reach the SEC championship game for the fifth time under Fulmer, who won league crowns in 1997 and 1998.

Saturday's win completed an impressive turnaround and had to be extra satisfying for Fulmer and the Volunteers, whose season seemed on the verge of falling apart following a 41-17 loss at Alabama on October 20.

Fulmer came under intense criticism, with a portion of Tennessee's rabid fan base calling for his ouster.

Prior to the Arkansas game on November 10, a group 191 former Tennessee players, including Peyton Manning, came to Fulmer's defense, signing a letter of support and taking out a full page advertisement in the Knoxville News Sentinel.

"Here we are, after several weeks ago we were given up for dead, going back to Atlanta for the SEC championship," Fulmer said.

Still, nothing came easy this season for the Volunteers, who rallied from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter last week to beat Vanderbilt, 25-24.

On Saturday the roles were reversed, as Woodson threw TD passes of two yards and eight yards to Steve Johnson to pull the Wildcats within 31-28.

Kentucky started its final possession of regulation on its 10-yard line, but Woodson led the Wildcats on an 18-play, 90-yard march.

The Wildcats actually had a chance to win in regulation as a pass interference penalty resulted in a 1st-and-goal at the 2.

But Rafael Little was stopped for no gain on first down and Woodson's pass on second was incomplete, leaving only one second on the clock.