Tough day for UT kickers

Tennessee often lives and dies by the kicking game. Saturday, it merely survived by it.

Redshirt freshman James Wilhoit made just one of three field goal tries. Senior Phillip Newman kicked off so poorly on his first two tries that walk-on Ryan Fusco took over that duty.

When asked if he thinks head coach Phillip Fulmer may have lost some confidence in him, Wilhoit shook his head emphatically.

''I think he's comfortable with me,'' he said. ''I don't think there's any reason I shouldn't be out there. I proved myself in practice. We had a tough day today but this was something I can learn from and have a better game against Marshall.''

Wilhoit actually made his first college field goal attempt -- a 25-yarder late in the first quarter -- but UT was flagged for a delay-of-game penalty. Forced to try again from 30 yards, he hooked the ball wide left.

The Winchester native conceded that he was at fault for not ''getting out there a little quicker, making my steps a little quicker, so we didn't run out of time on that first kick.''

He insists that his second field goal try -- a 34-yarder in the third quarter -- was good, even though the officials ruled it wide right.

''I still believe it went in,'' he said. ''Honestly, I shouldn't have made it so close that there could be a question. But I kicked it well and I'm really not unhappy with it. It was a little bit left and a little above (the right upright). I felt it went in.''

Regardless, Wilhoit officially stood 0-for-2 on field goal tries as he lined up a 40-yard try in the fourth quarter. The ball was spotted on the left hash mark -- the toughest angle there is for a right-footed kicker -- but Wilhoit's kick was true this time.

''It was encouraging just to make one, honestly,'' he said. ''But I never felt I was kicking the ball bad. It would've been different if all the kicks were shooting off left and right but I was missing by this much (holding forefinger and thumb less than an inch apart). I wasn't nervous. I made all my extra points and I made the first field goal (before it was nullified).

''It's not something you get down on. Things were a little bit weird but I felt like I had a good first day.''

Newman couldn't say the same. His first kickoff hooked out of bounds, giving Fresno the ball on its 35-yard line. His second came from the Vol 20-yard line following an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.

Vol punter Dustin Colquitt had a tough day, too. Although the talented junior averaged 43.5 yards per punt, he had one kick partially blocked and was hammered by an unseen blocker on a second-quarter punt return. The big hit left Colquitt sprawled on the ground for probably 20 seconds but he got no sympathy from Fulmer.

''You're going to get hit sometimes, even if you're a kicker,'' the head man said. ''You've got to be a little tougher. He bounced back and kicked well after that, and I was proud of that.''


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