Orange batters White, 69-7

It's hard to draw any real conclusions from a spring game, but here's one: Fresno State is in trouble if it dares to play non-scholarship defensive backs in its Aug. 30 opener with Tennessee.

With two of the Vols' top defensive backs (Jabari Greer, Robert Boulware) running track this spring and another (Rashad Baker) sidelined by a shoulder problem, there was just enough scholarship talent to fill one secondary in Saturday's Orange & White Game. As a result, Mark Jones and his fellow wideouts piled up the big plays as the Orange rolled to a 69-7 drubbing of the White in a ''best vs. the rest'' exhibition at Neyland Stadium.

Jones caught four passes for 152 yards, including touchdown plays covering 76 and 45 yards. Chris Hannon added 63 yards on three catches, with his best effort being a screen pass that he turned into a serpentine 35-yard TD play. Derrick Tinsley (one catch for 38 yards), Jomo Fagan (two catches for 35 yards), Tony Brown (two catches for 29 yards) and C.J. Fayton (two catches for 20 yards) also found torched the White team's collection of non-scholarship defensive backs.

Head coach Phillip Fulmer was pleased by the performance of the wideouts but conceded that the opposition wasn't exactly top-drawer.

''Our second-unit secondary is composed basically of walk-ons, and they had a tough time today,'' he said.

Still, Jones' performance was noteworthy. Averaging nearly 38 yards per catch is eye-catching, no matter what the level of opposition.

''He's had a really good spring,'' Fulmer noted. ''He's one of those guys who has added a nice dimension. He made some nice plays against a secondary that wasn't very fast, so we'll see how he does in the fall.''

Tennessee's top running backs also exploited the lack of speed among White defenders. Cedric Houston carried 12 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Gerald Riggs added 12 carries for 104 yards and a score. Corey Larkins chipped in 42 yards on six carries. Jabari Davis (two carries for 36 yards), Troy Fleming (two carries for 30 yards) and Ruben Mayes (four carries for 28 yards) also found running room against the outmanned White defense.

''I think Ced's better,'' Fulmer said. ''Jabari's better ... he's lighter. Fleming gives us a little dimension back there. Riggs has shown some flashes but he's got to go to school better. And Corey Larkins is probably the hardest to tackle of the bunch. It's a good, competitive situation.''

As expected, Casey Clausen picked apart the White secondary, completing 16 of 26 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns. But he also threw a ball that was intercepted by Shannon Benton and returned for the White team's only touchdown.

''It looked like his receiver fell down on that interception,'' Fulmer noted, ''but that's no excuse. Casey's the one that signs the check (when he throws a pass).''

No. 2 quarterback James Banks was 3 of 4 for 92 yards but also threw an interception that was returned for a score. Third-teamer C.J. Leak completed 6 of 11 for 28 yards but also threw an ''oskie.''

Asked if he is living in fear of an injury to Clausen, Fulmer smiled.

''I'm going to be concerned about that,'' the head man said. ''He's been lectured like heck by this spring about making sure he gets down or throws the ball away ... that he knows which protections are viable to scramble on and which are not because half of his problems come from scrambling when he shouldn't be.

''He's such a competition that you admire that, but to survive in this league, they're not playing two-hand touch. They're trying to put you out of the game. He's done a good the last part of spring practice of making that a priority, so he can play the next game.''

The Orange defense looked good on Saturday, and should be considerably fortified when some of its injured players return to action in August.

''We can't really assess our team yet until we get everybody back on the field,'' Fulmer said. ''Rashad Baker, Robert Peace, (Constantin) Ritzmann, (Kevin) Simon, (Kevin) Burnett. That's probably your five best players on defense ... that haven't been out there.'' Asked which players made the most progress this spring, Fulmer mentioned six members of last season's freshman class -- offensive lineman Cody Douglas, cornerbacks Antwan Stewart and Jason Allen, linebackers Marvin Mitchell and Omar Gaither, plus defensive end Parys Haralson.

''Cody Douglas has had a great spring,'' the head man said. ''Antwan Stewart and Jason Allen had 70 percent of the scrimmage snaps we had (because) they'd be going with the first- and second-teams. They've really gotten better.

''Marvin Mitchell has done a really good job, and so has Omar Gaither,'' Fulmer added. ''And Parys Haralson has shown he can be the most dynamic defensive linemen we've got, even though he's undersized. He's a guy that's all over the field.''

Overall, the head man figured Tennessee used its 15 spring practices wisely and well.

''We have gotten every drop out of this spring that I believe we could've gotten out it, in terms of contact and toughness,'' Fulmer said. ''To their credit, our kids responded very well.''

Looking ahead, the head man sees reason for both optimism and concern.

''I think we're going to have a pretty good football team,'' he said. ''But we've got a terrible schedule. We've got some really good players, but how deep are we going to be?''

Here's a recap of the O&W Game:

Banks opened the scrimmage with a nice play fake that froze the Orange defense, then hit Hannon with a 30-yard pass.

Clausen opened the Orange's first possession with a 23-yard strike to Brown. He subsequently hit a 14-yard sideline route to Jones.

Houston plowed over from a yard out for a touchdown that capped a 12-play, 82-drive and gave the Orange a 7-0 lead.

Larkins made a nifty 12-yard run against the Orange defense but the White quickly stalled.

Clausen hit Tinsley for 38 yards and Fleming for 10 before Fleming burst 14 yards up the gut for a TD that capped a four-play, 62-yard drive and widened the gap to 14-0.

Jason Allen intercepted an ''out'' route thrown by Banks and returned it 34 yards, as the Orange lead swelled to 21-0 late in the first quarter.

Gibril Wilson made a nice break on the ball to intercept a pass by Leak. On the first play of the ensuing possession, Clausen hit Jones with a quick slant pass and Jones outran the secondary for a 76-yard TD that made it 28-0 just 28 seconds into the second quarter.

Mayes burst 16 yards for the White.

Benton intercepted Clausen and returned the ball 27 yards, cutting the lead to 28-7.

Houston showed improved speed on a 30-yard ramble but C.J. Fayton dropped a potential 40-yard TD pass from Clausen.

Banks dropped a pass from Leak. Leak subsequently threw a flare pass to Riggs, who made a nice move to get 12 yards.

Fleming churned for 18 yards, then Clausen hit Mark Jones for 17. Seconds later, Clausen hit Jones with a 45-yard TD pass to complete a four-play, 80-yard drive that padded the lead to 35-7.

Banks scrambled for 25 yards, and later hit Jomo Fagan with a 27-yard pass. The White moved to the Orange 7-yard line seconds shy of halftime but consecutive sacks by Karlton Neal and Parys Haralson foiled the drive.

Clausen drove the Orange 74 yards on eight plays to open the second half, widening the gap to 42-7. The keys were a 15-yard run by Houston, an 11-yard run by fullback Will Revill and a nice cutback by Houston on a 19-yard TD run.

Jabari Davis burst 15 yards. After a 13-yard pass from Clausen to Fayton, Davis ran over tacklers on a 21-yard jaunt that carried to the three-yard line. Clausen hit Banks with a four-yard TD pass two plays later, and it was 49-7.

Walk-on quarterback Kevin Shipley recovered a fumbled lateral on the ensuing kickoff and scored on a nine-yard return to make it 55-7 Orange. Inexplicably, no PAT was attempted.

After tossing a 12-yard pass to Revill, Leak handed to Riggs, who veered outside and raced 64 yards to score, giving the Orange a 62-7 lead.

Banks gained 12 yards on a bootleg, then threw a screen to Hannon, who danced through walk-on defenders on his 35-yard TD play.

The final big play of the scrimmage was a 17-yard run by Riggs.


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