KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry gambled against No. 11 Tennessee and ended up with one of the biggest disappointments of his long career. The Falcons (0-1) frustrated the Volunteers' defense with their tricky triple-option offense and staged a comeback in the final minutes to pull to within one on a touchdown with 1:35 remaining. DeBerry chose to go for the lead instead of a tie. Tennessee's Xavier Mitchell stuffed the late 2-point conversion try and preserved the 31-30 victory Saturday. "I think they came in here to win the game," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "It was their call. If they made it, they would have been heroes."
The Volunteers (2-0), coming off last week's stunning win over California, got another stellar performance from Erik Ainge and the offense, but it almost wasn't enough. Now Tennessee can focus all of its attention on Florida, which comes to Rocky Top next week for the teams' annual SEC East showdown. Ainge completed 24 of 29 passes for 333 yards with one interception. Robert Meachem caught touchdown passes of 4 and 5 yards, and Jayson Swain hauled in another for 5 yards from Ainge. Air Force cut it to 31-24 with 2:41 left and then recovered the onside kick at its own 42. The Falcons scored on Ryan Williams' 1-yard run to cut the lead to a point with 1:35 remaining. On the 2-point try, Chad Hall took the pitch from quarterback Shaun Carney and was stopped for a loss by Mitchell. The relieved orange-clad fans in Neyland Stadium cheered for a win that was very different from a week ago.