This week in Tennessee history

Tennessee got a huge upset win over the Miami Hurricanes in 2003. This week, we revisit it.

Photo by Ben Ozburn

The Rifleman carries the Tennessee flag across the endzone after a Tennessee touchdown.

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The Vols have had countless incredible moments in their illustrious history. Tennessee is one of the most storied and celebrated programs in the country. In this feature, we will take a look back at some of the big moments of the past that took place during a particular week. This first segment goes back to 2003 to revisit a Tennessee victory in the Orange Bowl.

Tennessee played the Miami Hurricanes on Nov. 8, 2003 in the Orange Bowl as both teams’ ninth game of the season. Miami entered the season with massive expectations, as it had reached the national championship game in back-to-back years. The Hurricanes beat Nebraska after the 2001 season and lost to Ohio State after the 2002 season. To begin the year, the Hurricanes appeared to be just as dominant as ever, rolling to a 7-0 start and only playing three games decided by less than 19 points.

However, on Nov. 1 they lost to Virginia Tech, 31-7. Although the ‘Canes were stunned, their national championship aspirations were still alive heading into the game against Tennessee. The Vols had lost, 26-3, to Miami in Neyland Stadium a year before. Tennessee entered the 2003 matchup with the Hurricanes at 6-2, ranked No. 18 in the country. The Vols had their hands full with a Miami team that had played for a national championship for two consecutive seasons.

Once the game kicked off, it was apparent that it would be a slugfest and that Miami would not manhandle Tennessee. Heading into the second quarter, the Hurricanes only held a 3-0 lead over the Volunteers. Tennessee was able to match Miami’s field goal with one of its own. Then, perhaps the biggest play of the game occurred. On a fourth-and-goal from the Miami two-yard line, Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer decided to go for it.

The Vols handed the ball to Derrick Tinsley on an end around and he did the rest. He was able to cross the plane and score a touchdown, giving the Volunteers a 10-3 lead. The score at halftime remained 10-3. The second half was just as ugly as the first, as the only points scored came from a field goal by Miami in the third quarter.

Miami’s offensive woes were exacerbated by four turnovers, including Sean Taylor’s fumble on a punt return attempt that the Vols recovered. Taylor’s fumble was the final nail in the coffin for Miami. Tennessee won the game, 10-6. It ended Miami’s 26-game home winning streak, the longest in the country at the time. This game also marked the first time since 1984 that Miami did not score a touchdown at home, and its first two-game losing streak since 1999.

Tennessee’s victory knocked Miami out of national championship contention for the first time in three years, and it would also be the last time the Hurricanes would be close to the national championship picture.

Featured image by Ben Ozburn

Edited by Cody McClure