The Casey Show No Mo'

With Cedric Houston injured, Kelley Washington injured and the offensive line struggling, Tennessee's 2002 football season essentially was The Casey Clausen Show. With virtually no healthy weapons in its arsenal, UT's offense consisted of Clausen dropping back and trying desperately to make a play. The result was a season of offensive futility.

Based on Game 1, the 2003 season is going to be different. Clausen was sub-standard last Saturday against Fresno State, but it didn't matter. Cedric Houston (161 rushing yards), Jabari Davis (44-yard TD run), James Banks (36-yard reception, 9-yard TD catch) and Tony Brown (5-yard TD catch) made enough plays for the Vols to pile up 433 yards of total offense and 24 first downs in a 24-6 victory.

''Hopefully, I won't have very many more games like that,'' Clausen said, grinning softly. ''But it was good (that other Vols picked up the slack).''

After scoring a touchdown on its first possession, Tennessee moved the ball at will the rest of the half but managed just one more TD. That was a big disappointment.

''We started out fast but now we need to maintain it,'' Clausen said. ''Hopefully, this week (vs. Marshall) we can improve on that -- start fast, then maintain it the whole game. The whole key for us is being balanced.''

The Vols were unbalanced in the opener, rushing for 274 yards while passing for just 159. The passing game was there when needed, though, fueling a 76-yard scoring drive on UT's initial possession that opened up running lanes for Houston the rest of the day.

''Fresno tried to take away the running game,'' Clausen noted, ''but we jumped on 'em pretty early and they changed their focus a little bit, giving Ced a chance.''

Based on what he saw in spring practice and preseason drills, Clausen wasn't surprised by Houston's big day.

''Ced worked real hard in the offseason,'' the Vol QB said. ''Everybody knows he had it pretty tough in the offseason (losing an aunt, a grandmother and his father in a span of 15 days). He's been through a heck of a lot ... things that a lot of us could never imagine.''

In addition to losing three family members, Houston lost some weight over the summer and regained some of the quickness that made him a high school All-American four years ago. He also retained his mental edge after an injury-plagued 2002 season.

''His attitude and approach is totally different ... the whole team's is,'' Clausen said. ''Everybody's playing as one.''

The Vols will need to put up a unified front Saturday against Marshall. The Thundering Herd has a much better offensive line than Fresno State and should put up some points. Thus, Clausen & Company need to counter with some scores of their own. Clausen believes that will happen, based on what transpired in Game 1.

''It was great being out on the field and having fun again,'' he said. ''It wasn't a whole lot of fun last year. But I think we had a good time Saturday.''

The Vols usually have a good time when their offensive line has a good time. And Tennessee's blockers were in midseason form in Game 1, opening gaping holes in the Fresno front.

''The offensive line did a good job,'' Clausen said. ''They really stepped it up. Once we threw the ball down the field and loosened 'em up a little bit, they started having six or seven guys in the box. When they do that, we're going to run the ball right at 'em.''


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