End Zone Alchemy -- Janzen Jackson turns a TD into an interception in the end zone against North Carolina
After starting the season 2-6, with those two wins being in overtime over UAB and a game against FCS opponent UT-Martin, the Vols finished on a four-game winning streak to get bowl eligible at 6-6. The asterisk for that strong finish denoted the level of competition -- Memphis, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky. So playing North Carolina in the Music City Bowl provided an opportunity to get a solid win against a good team, one that had started the season ranked 18th in the nation.
The game was a back-and-forth affair, with the Tar Heels drawing first blood with a TD, Tennessee matching them, North Carolina going up by three, the Vols going up by four, and the bad guys going up by three again to close out the first half. After a scoreless third quarter with the Heels leading 17-14, they were driving again to make it a two-score lead near the top of the fourth.
But Janzen Jackson turned a sure Tar Heel TD into his own interception and kept the game alive for UT:
We know how this ended -- with twitches and boiling blood and flirtations with a night in the clink -- but this was a great play.
Before Tennessee was bowl eligible, though, it was On The Edge Of Bowl Eligible for four straight games, and the last of those four games -- against Kentucky -- was perhaps the biggest challenge of all. The Wildcats got out to a quick 7-0 lead after the Vols missed a field goal attempt and punted on their first two drives. But then Kentucky fumbled, and Tyler Bray remembered that Denarius Moore could do stuff like this:
Bray tossed a TD to Gerald Jones on the next play, and it was game on. The Vols put up 24 for the game on a TD from Bray to Moore, a Tauren Poole score, and a field goal from Daniel Lincoln, and they won the game 24-14.