KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Willie Gault returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown Saturday and set up another score with a 49-yard return to spark Tennessee to a 28-20 victory over Mississippi.
Gault broke a school record for return yardage with the touchdown burst, which gave the Volunteers a 28-6 lead at the half.
The Tennessee defense stifled Ole Miss quarterback John Fourcade, who came into the game with a string of 95 passes without an interception, but saw two of his aerials picked off by linebacker Mark Burns.
Tennessee, 6-3, scored touchdowns the first three times it got the ball, two scores coming on short plunges by tailback James Berry. Tennessee's other score came on a 13-yard pass from quarterback Steve Alatorre to Anthony Hancock.
Representatives from the Hall of Fame, Tangerine, Independence and Peach bowls scouted the game.
Ole Miss, 3-6-1, scored on an 80-yard drive in the second quarter that featured Fourcade passes of 16 and 13 yards to Michael Harmon. Fourcade got the touchdown on a 1-yard run but the extra point try was blocked leaving Ole Miss behind 21-6.
The Rebels cut the margin to 28-12 in the third period on a 13-yard scoring run by fullback Arthur Humphrey and to 28-20 when Fourcade threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to tailback Buford McGee with 1:48 left in the game. The Rebels added a two-point conversion on a Fourcade pass to Harmon.
Gault brought the crowd to its feet when he fielded a Daryl Graham punt in the second period, broke a tackle, reversed his field and then outraced Rebel defenders 66 yards to the goal line.
Earlier in the first period, the speedster set up Tennessee's second score, fielding another Graham punt and running it 49 yards to the Ole Miss 17. Berry punched the ball over from a yard out for a 14-0 lead.
Gault almost broke for another score in the second quarter when he took a Robert Robinson kickoff and raced 54 yards down the sideline to the Ole Miss 37. The drive stalled, however, and a 51-yard field goal attempt by Fuad Reveiz was wide.
Fourcade, a senior, set a school record for career pass attempts. He threw 34 times and ended the day with a career total of 791 passes, breaking Archie Manning's previous record of 761.
Tennessee Coach Johnny Majors said it was the Vols' kicking game that deserved a lot of the credit.
'Our kicking game was outstanding -- kickoff returns, punt returns and kickoffs,' Majors said. 'Willie Gault is outstanding and has gotten better. He can make some things happen with his ability.'
Majors said the Vols had to keep the pressure on Fourcade, who in the past two years has led the Rebels to victories over Tennessee.
'I thought our defense put pressure on Fourcade in the first half. The secondary broke on the ball decently,' Majors said.
'Ole Miss has the capability to come back with Fourcade and we needed to keep the pressure on,' Majors said.
Ole Miss Coach Steve Sloan said if not for Gault the Rebs might have made it three staight over Tennessee.
'We felt going into the game that our biggest concern was the kicking game. We had hoped to break even in the kicking game. If we had accomplished this, we could have won the game,' Sloan said. 'I think everybody will agree that was the difference today.
'Tennessee has hurt us where no one else has, the kicking game. We were probably leading the country on punt returns. I think we were giving up only 1.6 yards per kick,' he said.
Sloan said Fourcade played a great game but his effort was offset by Rebel mistakes.
'We made some mistakes today that we had not been making -- the fumbles and the tipped passes that resulted in interceptions,' said Sloan.