“The Last Hurrah for Ersatz Grass”

The 1993 season was the final campaign on artificial turf that had covered the floor of Shields-Watkins Field in one form or another since 1968. Grass would appear at the “Home of the Vols” the next season.

The Vols zoomed up and down gridirons across the south for 471 regular season points, led by Heath Shuler. Shuler could beat you in a number of ways, with his feet or with his arm.

He had a stable of running backs at his disposal, James Stewart, Charley Garner, and Aaron Hayden, and equally talented receivers such as Billy Williams, Cory Fleming, Craig Faulkner, and Joey Kent. He became one of the most popular players in Tennessee history, finishing second in the Heisman race to Florida State’s Charley Ward, with the theme “You have to be 21 to win the Heisman,” owing to his jersey number.

That campaign included the Vols’ first trip to Little Rock since 1907, culminating in a 28-14 victory over Arkansas at War Memorial Stadium.

Tennessee had No. 2 Alabama on the ropes Oct. 16 in Birmingham, leading 17-9 with just minutes to play, but the Tide made the requisite plays to gain the deadlock, led by quarterback Jay Barker and wideout David Palmer.

The tie was a downer, but the Vols took no prisoners the rest of the way. The Vols scored points by the bushel in an amazing show of offensive efficiency. Tennessee scored 250 points in the final four regular season games against South Caroline, Louisville, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt.

The season ended with a loss to Penn State in the Florida Citrus Bowl, but any number of Vol fans today could be happy with a 10-2-1 record.

For a season or so, at least.

Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013