Marshall masses to stop run

Tennessee piled up 274 rushing yards in last weekend's opener vs. Fresno State but the Vols will be hard-pressed to equal that output this Saturday against Marhall. The Thundering Herd literally sells out to stop the ground game.

''They primarily play an eight-man front,'' Vol offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. ''If you get eight blockers, they'll play a nine-man front. They're definitely going to try to stop the run and make you throw it.''

This is essentially the same defensive strategy Michigan used vs. Tennessee in the 2002 Citrus Bowl. The Vols foiled the plan by hitting a few big passes and romping 45-17. If they can hit a few big passes Saturday, they can exploit Marshall in similar fashion.

''If you have success throwing it -- make your plays outside -- you can score some points,'' Sanders said. ''If you're not doing those things, it gets really hard to fall back on the run game and make things happen. A lot of it comes down to whether you can make those plays or not.''

Even though Marshall masses to stop the run, an occasional opponent manages to move the ball on the ground. Virginia Tech, for instance, ran the ball with great success on the Thundering Herd last fall.

''Basically, they had a hard time tackling the two backs from Virginia Tech,'' Sanders said. ''There were free guys showing up but the backs were making them miss or running through the tackles. If we can do that, I think we'll be successful running the ball. But there's always going to be someone extra in there.''

Still, the easiest way to exploit Marshall's defensive scheme is to burn the Thundering Herd through the air. Vol QB Casey Clausen has the skills to do this, although he had an erratic performance last weekend vs. Fresno.

''He had his fundamentals break down on him a couple of times,'' Sanders said. ''And a couple of times he said the ball was wet from the center sweating so much and he (Clausen) had a hard time getting hold of it. You could see it on film -- he's spinning the ball in his hand trying to find a dry spot.''

Asked what can be done to combat a sweaty football, Sanders replied: ''We'll have about four pairs of pants for the center. We may run him in at the end of the first quarter, have him change pants and hope he can get it done before we get the ball back. If not, we may play our second center for a few snaps.''


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