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100 Days of Vols #64 - The Best Offense in School History

The art of selling tickets...


The 2012 Vols came dangerously close to setting a number of offensive school records, which I'm not sure any of us really wanted to belong to a 5-7 team. They did get the single game total yardage record with 718 in the win over Troy, but came up just short in total offense with 5,711 yards on the year. Bowl eligibility would've allowed them to surpass Peyton Manning's senior season in 1997, when the Vols went for 5,794 yards. Their 36.2 points per game were certainly impressive last fall...but it didn't even come close to the all-time record at Tennessee.

The Bray/Hunter/Patterson combo was certainly electric, and everything Peyton Manning did was spectacular. But if you're looking for the best offense in school history, the record books will award that honor to the 1993 Vols.

The '93 Vols are one of those teams that tends not to get remembered because they didn't win a ring; this fall we'll celebrate their 20th anniversary, but I'm not sure there will be any official recognition. But despite coming up short to Florida in the SEC East, the 9-1-1 Vols still set school records that still stand for not only points per game at a whopping 42.8, but yards per play at 6.9.

And they did it with one of the most balanced and dangerous attacks Knoxville has ever seen.

The '93 Vols start with Heath Shuler in his Heisman runner-up campaign. He threw to Cory Fleming and Craig Faulkner, a strong one-two combo. And the backfield is up there with anything else in school history, with three future NFL starters in Charlie Garner, James Stewart, and Aaron Hayden.

This team scored less than 34 points just twice in the regular season: 28 in a win at Arkansas, and 17 in the infamous tie with the defending national champions from Alabama. And in that game the Vols were hampered by a partially separated shoulder from Shuler, who played through the pain and almost pulled it off. Their legacy suffers because Penn State roughed them up in the Citrus Bowl 31-13 in a shocking display. But let's focus on what they did do:

  • In an advertised shootout with Eric Zeier in the second game of the season, the Vols punished #22 Georgia 38-6 in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee scored a pair of touchdowns in the second and third quarters to put the game away, going 9 of 16 on third down and finishing with 478 total yards. Fleming had 7 for 105 and Garner added 107 rushing yards.
  • In an actual shootout with Danny Wuerffel, the Vols came up just short in a 41-34 loss in Gainesville. Shuler went 25 of 41 for 355 yards and five touchdowns, three to Billy Williams, and the Vols actually outgained the Gators but lost the turnover battle.
  • Tennessee responded with a 42-20 beatdown of LSU the following week, going for 485 yards and 8 of 11 on third down.
  • In the beatdown of Steve Taneyhill in late October, the Vols ran for 335 and passed for 234 in a 55-3 win over South Carolina. James "Little Man" Stewart had 114 yards on just nine carries.
  • Tennessee used 21 fourth quarter points to bury #13 Louisville 45-10.
In one of those old Vol Network videos, Phillip Fulmer and David Cutcliffe talk about this offense in terms of, to paraphrase, "Other teams are out there trying to move the chains. We were trying to score a touchdown on every play." This was Fulmer's first full season at the helm and David Cutcliffe's first as a play caller, and the Vols were never better. The 93 Vols are an outstanding testament to the power of a truly balanced offense; UT's backfield threats certainly allowed Shuler to make plays in both the run and pass game throughout the year. The 93 Vols slip through the cracks more than they should, but no Tennessee team was better at putting points on the scoreboard.