GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Quick-striking Tennessee got off to a big early lead and went on to defeat Virginia Tech, 45-23, in the transplanted Outback Steakhouse Gator Bowl game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on the University of Florida campus.
Tech backed itself into a corner early, throwing an interception on the game's second play. The Volunteers kept the Hokies there with a variety of big plays that resulted in a 35-10 halftime advantage. Overall, UT had seven plays of 20 or more yards and a total of 495 yards of offense.
Tennessee capitalized on the early interception for its first touchdown, then got its second on a 36-yard scoring pass by quarterback Peyton Manning - whose father, Archie, directed Mississippi to a bowl win over Tech in 1968. The Vols used a 75-yard end-around to set up their third TD and a 21-0 advantage just 17 minutes into the game.
When the Hokies finally got going, they piled up 426 yards of offense, including 237 yards through the air. Tech also got a game-high 102 yards rushing from tailback Dwayne Thomas. Thomas had a 1-yard burst for a touchdown in the second quarter and ran 27 yards to set up a third-quarter TD, which came on a 7-yard option run by quarterback Maurice DeShazo.
Any hopes the Hokies had of a second-half rally were erased by a dropped touchdown pass by a Tech receiver and a 5-yard TD run by Tennessee running back James Stewart. Stewart was named the game's MVP after running for three touchdowns and passing for another.
A contingent of 18,000-plus Tech fans were among the 62,200 spectators who made the trip from Jacksonville to Gainesville for the game. The site of the game was moved to Gainesville due to renovations being made to Gator Bowl Stadium after Jacksonville was awarded a NFL franchise.