At stake: Control of the season. The season-opening loss to UCLA could be explained away as a fluke. The loss to Florida two weeks later could be explained by saying simply "Gators." The loss the following week to Auburn, though, could only be described as utter offensive ineptitude, as the team couldn't get into field goal range despite living most of the second half on Auburn's side of the field. It was undeniable at this point that the season was careening toward the ditch, and a game against lowly Northern Illinois was just the thing Tennessee needed to regain some traction.
In-game context: Yikes. Yes, it was Northern Illinois, but the Vols couldn't do anything with them. After the Huskies missed a field goal on their first possession, Tennessee did them one better by fumbling on theirs. Northern Illinois then hit a field goal to go up 3-0, and the Vols followed that up with a punt. Fortunately, we have Eric Berry:
Impact: Well, that play denied Northern Illinois of another score and put Tennessee's offense in field goal position (good thing, too, because they actually went backwards before getting the three points), which set the stage for Denarius Moore's TD to be the difference in the game