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 KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Nick Stephens did enough in Tennessee's win over Northern Illinois to keep his job as the Vols' starting quarterback for another week.
There's still plenty of work to be done.
``Nick didn't disappoint me,'' coach Phil Fulmer said. ``I was really proud of the way he managed the game and threw the ball, for the most part. There's certainly room to grow, and he'll do that.''
Tennessee must do a lot of growing in a hurry. In the next four weeks, the Vols (2-3) travel to No. 10 Georgia and South Carolina before hosting Mississippi State and No. 2 Alabama at Neyland Stadium, where attendance is averaging 101,294 this season, about 1,000 below capacity.
edshirt sophomore from Flower Mound, Texas, looked poised in the pocket and threw more accurately.
He connected with Denarius Moore on a crisp 52-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter that helped Tennessee to a lackluster 13-9 win.
Stephens, who had only eight snaps in his college career before facing the Huskies, is now responsible for three of the Vols' four longest plays of the season, including a 43-yard strike to Gerald Jones earlier in the game.
That doesn't mean Tennessee's problems have passed.
``Hopefully we can build on it, but we've got a lot more football to play and the great thing is we won,'' offensive coordinator Dave Clawson said. ``We have a lot more things to work on and get better on for Georgia, because obviously we're going to have to play better to beat them.''
The woes for the Vols' offense are many:
-A veteran offensive line that allowed only four sacks last season allowed three against the Huskies, including a 10-yard loss that cost the Vols their best shot at the end zone in the fourth quarter. Daniel Lincoln then missed a 32-yard field goal.
-The running game, which had been consistent through the first four games, found no rhythm and finished with only 69 yards and an average 2.2 per play.
-The unit committed three penalties in the first half alone.
only nine first downs, converted three of 13 third down attempts and failed on its only fourth down conversion.
-Josh Briscoe and Stephens each fumbled the ball away, resulting in field goals.
The defense, ranked fifth in the nation, helped bail the Vols out.
Tennessee came up with a big stop after the Stephens fumble by limiting the Huskies to only 1 yard and forcing the field goal. The defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in seven quarters.
Eric Berry also picked off Huskies quarterback Dan Nicholson and returned it 48 yards to the Northern Illinois 16, setting up Lincoln's 36-yard field goal.
``I'm really excited we didn't give up any touchdowns. We gave up a big play that led to points and that's what we've got to eliminate,'' defensive coordinator John Chavis said. ``I think Eric had a chance. We need to make a block down there so we can get him in the end zone.''

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