For Severna Park's Green, win eases pain of latest knee injury

DT is forced out early

Vols' Price turns it around

January 05, 1999|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

TEMPE, ARIZ. — TEMPE, Ariz.-- He limped down the driveway leading to the Tennessee dressing room at Sun Devil Stadium late last night, a crutch in his left hand and a smile on his face.

The pain in Ron Green's right knee had not yet subsided, but at least some of it was erased by his team's 23-16 victory over second-ranked Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Green, who was injured making a play in the first quarter and missed the remainder of the game, was still celebrating Tennessee's first national championship in 48 years.

"It was very tough watching," said Green, a fifth-year senior defensive tackle from Severna Park. "I cried my eyes out when the doctor told me I might have torn my ACL. I couldn't be out there physically, but I was there emotionally."

It was a difficult way for Green to end what has been an injury-plagued college career, and he hoped that X-rays today will show that he didn't tear an anterior cruciate ligament for the second time. He tore the ACL in his left knee two years ago.

"If it is, I'll rehab just like I did the last time," said Green, who recently received his degree in sociology despite a severe learning disability. "They can't stop me. I worked too hard for my career to come to an end."

Redemption for Price

In one play last night, Peerless Price lived up to his name. In one play, he gained redemption and then some.

Early in the fourth quarter, Tennessee's big-play receiver saw a sure touchdown -- and a national championship -- bounce off his chest into the hands of a defender.

Just four minutes later, he gathered in the longest pass ever completed in the Fiesta Bowl, a 79-yarder that saved Tennessee's title. A perfect play to cinch a perfect season, capped by a victory over Florida State.

It was third-and-eight from the Tennessee 21 when Price went racing down the sidelines, outrunning cornerback Mario Edwards, and Tee Martin let fly.

At about the 25, Price caught the ball, held on tight and ran untouched into the end zone. The play, longest in Fiesta Bowl history, put Tennessee up 20-9 with 9: 17 left.

The Vols held on to win, and there's no doubt what play the tens of thousands of orange-clad Tennessee fans in the record crowd of 80,470 would remember most.

"Peerless Price has made more happen at wide receiver than any receiver we've had at Tennessee, and we've had some good ones," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said.

For Price, the speedster from Dayton, Ohio, there could be no more dramatic way to make up for his mistake.

Early in the fourth quarter, Volunteers punter David Leaverton had pinned the Seminoles on their own 1. Tennessee's defense held, as it did most of the long, penalty-filled night.

Florida State punted and the Volunteers had first down on the Seminoles' 35. With Tennessee leading 14-9, a touchdown would go a long way toward clinching the victory.

On first down, Martin went for it all. Price sliced between two defenders just across the goal line and the ball was delivered right on target. Inexplicably, the Vols' leading receiver, with 61 catches going into the game, couldn't hang on.

The ball bounced off Price's chest into the hands of Dexter Jackson, who returned the ball to the Florida State 26.

The Seminoles moved to midfield, but once again, their offense stalled. Tennessee took over, and Price made the biggest play of his career.

He finished with four catches for 199 yards and was named the game's offensive MVP.

Vols show their defense

Tennessee can play a little D, too.

Florida State came into the Fiesta Bowl with the top-ranked defense in the country. The Seminoles were as good as advertised, but weren't the only good defense on the field at Sun Devil Stadium.

Florida State was shut out in the big-play department. The Seminoles' longest play of the game was 39 yards late in the fourth quarter.

The Vols held Florida State to 253 yards, forced three turnovers, and added a touchdown of its own on Dwayne Goodrich's 54-yard interception return.

They held the Seminoles to 16 points despite being put into bad positions several times by offensive miscues or special teams plays by the Seminoles.

Florida's State's big-play receiver, Peter Warrick, had just one catch for 7 yards.

The Vols harassed Florida State quarterback Marcus Outzen, making just his third start, into a 9-of-22 night for 145 yards, and dropped him for 54 yards in losses.

Buckeyes lose out

Its 11-1 season complete, Ohio State waited to learn how much one misstep will cost, and then saw Tennessee end the debate by winning the Fiesta Bowl.

"Hey, what can I say? Tennessee won. It looks like they'll be No. 1," Ohio State coach John Cooper said. "They'll be No. 1. I don't know who's No. 2. If you follow the logic, since this will be Florida State's second loss, you would think that they will drop to No. 5 or No. 6."

Cooper seemed angry yesterday about the coronation of the Fiesta Bowl winner as part of the Bowl Championship Series arrangement.

"If that's the case, it sounds like they might as well not even watch the game," said Cooper, whose Buckeyes defeated Texas A&M, 24-14, in the Cotton Bowl.

Cooper said he knew for sure that he would put Ohio State No. 2 on his final coaches' poll ballot.

"If you follow the same logic that's been followed all year long, we can't be any worse than No. 2," he said. "I mean, you lose late in the year, you drop down, don't you?"

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 1/05/99

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