Clausen's a road warrior for UT

The fact Saturday's Tennessee-Florida football game is being played at The Swamp clearly favors the Gators. But there's another factor at work this weekend that strongly suggests Tennessee will win.

Vol quarterback Casey Clausen has never lost as a road quarterback. He's 10-0 when playing on the opponent's home field. He beat South Carolina, Memphis and Vanderbilt in 2000, beat Arkansas, Alabama, Notre Dame, Kentucky and Florida in 2001, then beat South Carolina and Vanderbilt in an injury-riddled 2002 season.

So, the fact Saturday's game is in Gainesville may be to Tennessee's advantage.

Asked to explain his emergence as a road warrior, Clausen shrugged.

'''ve just gone out and played,'' he said. ''The biggest thing is going out and having fun. A lot of people get caught up in where you're playing and who you're playing. The bottom line is, you've just got to go out and play football. That's what I try to focus on.

''Just handling the noise and atmosphere is kind of what I attribute it to. I definitely enjoy playing on the road -- going to those stadiums and coming out with a big win.''

Although being cheered at Neyland Stadium is enjoyable, being jeered by hostile fans really gets Clausen's adrenalin pumping.

''When you walk into another stadium, you hear the band, the crowd, people yelling stuff, it gets me more fired up and more ready to take care of business,'' he said. ''Most quarterbacks feel more comfortable at home than on the road. I feel comfortable both places.''

Clausen even feels comfortable in Gainesville. Heath Shuler never won there. Peyton Manning never won there. Nor did Tee Martin. But Clausen led the Vols to a 34-32 victory at The Swamp two years ago. He believes the key to victory is keeping the game in perspective. Too often, he believes, past Tennessee teams became too tense when visiting Gainesville.

''I try to impress on my teammates that Florida's Florida,'' he said. ''Just play the game. They put on their helmets the same as us, put on their pads the same as us.

''Sometimes guys, especially in the big games, feel they've got to do these great things every single play. I say, 'Hey, this is just another football game. You prepare for it like any other game.' Obviously, it's a big game for us but just go out and play your game.

''Going to Florida is the same as going to Alabama or going to Notre Dame or going to Notre Dame. Just have fun and enjoy it. Don't get hesitant or anything like that. The past few teams haven't played their best against Florida, for whatever reason, but I tell the guys to just go out, compete and play hard.''

Clausen's actions underscore his words. He does not appear overly excited about invading The Swamp.

''I'm loose,'' he said. ''Some people get uptight. I tell 'em 'It's all right. Just prepare like it's another game.' I guess when I say that, some people say, 'What's he talking about? It's Florida.' To me, whether we're playing Marshall, Fresno or Florida, I prepare the same.''

There's a difference, though. Tennessee already beat Fresno and Marshall. Can the Vols beat Florida, as well.?

''I'm confident in my teammates,'' Clausen said. ''A lot of us have been there and done that. It's just another road game. If we play the way we're capable of playing, we'll be fine.''


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