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Volunteers beat Southern Mississippi after first-half struggle

Sep 9, 2007 - 3:53 AM KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Arian Foster rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns as No. 24 Tennessee beat Southern Mississippi, 39-19, on Saturday in a game that was closer than the final score indicated.

Erik Ainge completed 23-of-36 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns for Tennessee (1-1), which took control in the second half after Southern Mississippi led for a majority of the first and second quarters.

Ainge found John Briscoe for a five-yard touchdown pass with 37 seconds left in the second quarter as Tennessee took its first lead since the 9:29 mark in the first quarter.

"I have to credit Austin (Rogers), Lucas (Taylor) and Josh (Briscoe)" Ainge said. "They are all playing well. The potential has always been there, so we aren't shocked that they're where they're supposed to be every time."

The Volunteers carried a 17-16 lead into the break before they sealed the victory in the second half.

Daniel Lincoln hit a 36-yard field goal to extend Tennessee's lead to 20-16 on its first possession of the second half.

The defense held Southern Mississippi to a three-and-out on the following possession and Foster capped off a five-play, 54-yard drive with a nine-yard TD run, as the Volunteers lead swelled to 27-16.

Foster cemented the win with 8:41 left in the fourth quarter when he scored his second touchdown from the goal line, giving the Volunteers a 34-19 lead.

"The game felt good," Foster said. "We knew they would bring blitzes, and that it would take a while to get the running game going. The coaches came out in the second half with a good game plan."

The Golden Eagles opened the scoring with a field goal on their first possesion of the game.

After the Volunteers responded with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Ainge to Austin Rodgers, Southern Mississippi (1-1) scored on the first play of the ensuing drive when Jeremy Young hit Chris Johnson for a 69-yard touchdown to take a 10-7 lead.

"It gave us a lot of confidence because we didn't have to depend on the running game," Young said. "We had a chance to come out and get some passing in and we did a good job but it just wasn't good enough."

The Golden Eagles increased their lead to 13-7 when Britt Barefoot converted a 51-yard field goal with 3:54 left in the first quarter.

Lincoln hit a 38-yard field goal to cap off a 10-play, 50-yard drive as Tennessee moved within 13-10.

After the Volunteers failed to convert on fourth down, Southern Mississippi took advantage, extending its lead to 16-10 on Justin Estes' second field goal of the half. However, Southern Mississippi managed only three more points in the game as Estes added a field goal with 4:09 left in the third quarter.

"I'm really glad to get the win," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "We knew coming in that Southern Mississippi was a tough football team. They'll have a great season."

While Fulmer was happy with the victory, Southern Mississippi coach Jeff Bower was upset with his team's performance.

"I'm disappointed in the way we played," Bower said. "We had chances to score and we settled for field goals and we needed to get touchdowns."

After surrendering 45 points to California in its first game of the season, Tennessee's defense didn't play much better, allowing 354 total yards of total offense.