FOOTBALL: Fulmer 'not happy' with Vols play

It would be easy for Tennessee to sit back, relax and not worry too much about Kentucky this week.

After all, 15th-ranked Tennessee has already won the SEC East, Kentucky is just 2-8 and the Vols have defeated the Wildcats 19 consecutive times. Nothing to worry about, right?

Not according to Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer. He's not happy with the way his team played in last week's 38-33 victory at Vanderbilt, and he's concerned the Vols (8-2, 6-1 SEC) will lose more of their momentum as they head into the SEC championship game against Auburn on Dec. 4.

"I don't think our kids intentionally relaxed or anything like that," Fulmer said. "It was just the emotion of it. We've had a lot of close, emotional football games this year.

"After them not scoring on us in three years, I don't think our kids thought they could beat us. Next time, they'll have our attention. This week they will. Maybe it's just what we needed."

Giving the Kentucky game the necessary attention and effort will require the team leaders to buy into what Fulmer and the coaches are saying, and then sell that outlook to the younger players.

"Emotion is such an important part of the game," Fulmer said. "In the locker room, we had just clinched the East and everything, and you would have thought, 'Well, we just got through another game.'

"Our team is young, and I hope we learned for the short term and certainly for the long term with the guys who are coming back. If you've got somebody down, you need to have that killer instinct to finish things off."

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The offense played well against Vanderbilt last week, despite the absence of injured QBs Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer and three starting offensive linemen. The key was a running game that controlled the line of scrimmage, with RBs Cedric Houston and Gerald Riggs Jr. both coming through with big games and keeping the heat off third-string QB Rick Clausen, the new starter.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Vols were not happy with their defensive performance last week against Vanderbilt, with good reason. Tennessee allowed 33 points and 420 yards, including 13 points in the fourth quarter. The Vols need to get their act back together as they work toward the Dec. 4 SEC championship game against Auburn.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Right now, I think Rick has done a good enough job that he earned that starting job for the rest of the year." -- Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer on sticking with junior QB Rick Clausen for the SEC Championship Game, regardless of whether or not injured freshmen Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer are able to return.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Kentucky at Tennessee, Nov. 27 -- Tennessee has won the past 19 meetings in the series, dating back to 1985. That's not likely to change unless the Vols are so focused on Auburn and the SEC championship game on Dec. 4 that they just give this game away.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Rick Clausen -- Clausen made his first collegiate start against Vanderbilt because of injuries to freshmen starters Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer, and handled it well, completing 19 of 30 passes for 189 yards with two touchdowns. He needs to keep improving and preparing for the Auburn game.

RBs Cedric Houston and Gerald Riggs, Jr. -- Tennessee did Clausen a big favor by rushing for 236 yards against Vanderbilt as Houston rushed for three touchdowns and 97 yards and Riggs added 149 yards.

FS Jason Allen -- Allen is an active defender against the run, leading the SEC with 102 total tackles, and 73 solos. Nineteen of his tackles have come in the past two games.

ROSTER REPORT: Starting center Jason Respert left the hospital on Monday and returned to practice that same day. Respert missed the Vanderbilt game after being hospitalized with a hand infection. He also missed the Notre Dame game with a sprained ankle. ... OT Michael Munoz sprained his shoulder against Vanderbilt and missed the second half, but he is expected to return to practice and play on Saturday. However, OG Cody Douglas remains out with a mid-foot sprain and isn't expected to play against Kentucky. ... CB Roshaun Fellows is limited by a sprained foot this week and is questionable for the Kentucky game.

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