KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – LaMarcus Coker plunged 1 yard for a touchdown and No. 19 Tennessee’s defense held on to beat Kentucky 17-12 Saturday, the Volunteers’ 22nd consecutive victory over the Wildcats.

Erik Ainge was 19-of-33 for 240 yards for the Vols, and completed a 15-yard TD pass to Robert Meachem in the first quarter. Coker finished with 90 yards on 22 rushes.

But Kentucky, ranked last in the nation in total defense, made the Volunteers (9-3, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) work to the very end for this one.

After going ahead with Coker’s score at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Tennessee looked like it could grind out the clock and score again, but Ainge was tackled and fumbled on third down. Tennessee recovered but had to punt.

The Wildcats (7-5, 4-4) got it back with 8:30 left and marched inside the Vols 10. They had a delay of game penalty on second-and-goal at the 3, and their possession ended with two consecutive incomplete passes.

Tennessee took over with 3:02 to go and got a first down that allowed them to run out the clock.

Kentucky was leading 12-10 at halftime, and Lones Seiber missed a field goal in the third quarter that would have extended its lead. Coker scored on the Vols’ ensuing drive.

The Wildcats didn’t look at all like a team that allowed 501 yards in a 42-40 win over Louisiana-Monroe last week and nearly ended the second-longest losing streak in Division I-A against one team.

The Vols had 336 yards of total offense and were held to fewer than 20 points for only the third time this season.

The win gave Tennessee second place in the SEC East behind Florida and prevented Kentucky’s try for eight wins for the first time since 1984 – the last year they won in this series.

After the Vols regained the lead with Coker’s touchdown, the Wildcats got into Tennessee territory with Andre Woodson’s 41-yard pass to Dicky Lyons, but they couldn’t get a first down afterward. On fourth-and-2 at the Vols 28, Turk McBride tackled Rafael Little for a loss.

Kentucky went ahead a few seconds before halftime after Tennessee fumbled a kickoff. Seiber, who had missed an extra point on the Wildcats’ previous score, kicked a 20-yarder to put Kentucky up 12-10.

The game marked a homecoming for Kentucky quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders, who resigned a year ago as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator.

He had Woodson playing well. He was 26-of-39 for 282 yards and threw a 5-yard touchdown to Little in the second quarter.

Little ran for 119 yards on 23 carries.

Sanders had spent most of his adult life in Knoxville, staying on as a coach for 17 years after playing quarterback for the Vols. Coach Phillip Fulmer promoted him to coordinator when David Cutcliffe left to be head coach at Mississippi before the 1998 national championship game.

Fulmer and Sanders hugged and talked on the field before the game. While they were talking, Cutcliffe walked over and hugged Sanders and spoke for a moment.

AP-ES-11-25-06 1608EST

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