Vols ready to explode?

Tennessee scored 24 points in its Game 1 defeat of Fresno State but head coach Phillip Fulmer said the Vols ''left another 24 points on the field'' due to missed assignments, poor passes and other correctable mishaps.

Tennessee scored 34 points in its Game 2 defeat of Marshall but would've scored another 21 except that Mark Jones dropped a touchdown pass, Jayson Swain dropped a touchdown pass and Casey Clausen one-hopped a 30-foot flat pass to a wide-open Derrick Tinsley.

So, heading into Saturday's game with Florida, is UT's glass half full or half empty? In other words, should offensive coordinator Randy Sanders be thrilled that the Vols have come so close to scoring a ton of points or should he be disappointed that they have failed to exploit so many of their scoring opportunities?

Basically, Sanders is a little of each. He's concerned that the Vols have blown some golden opportunities but he's tickled that they appear capable of being exceptionally productive.

''We're close,'' he said. ''Obviously, we're getting into a stretch (of games) where we have to make those plays. At the same time, there's been very, very few games I've been around where you didn't leave SOME points on the field.''

The best example of a Tennessee team taking advantage of EVERY scoring opportunity occurred against Arkansas in 2000, when the Vols romped 63-20 in Sanders' second year as offensive coordinator.

''The Arkansas game was 35-0 at halftime,'' he recalled. ''We probably didn't leave anything on the field that day ... in the first quarter.''

Odds are, Tennessee will leave some points on the field Saturday in Gainesville. Still, there are indications that the Vols are on the verge of an offensive breakout.

''It's nice to see that we have the opportunities to make those plays, and we're that close to having some big touchdown plays,'' Sanders said. ''It's frustrating that we haven't made more of them but it's nice that we've made SOME of them. I think we'll make some more.''

One thing the coordinator finds very encouraging is the productivity of Tennessee's ground game. Missing in action for much of 2002, it has returned with a vengeance in 2003. The Vols are averaging a whopping 248.5 rushing yards per game, a mark which ranks 10th nationally. Of course, the season is only two games old.

''If we're still sitting here after 12 games talking about averaging 248 yards per game rushing,'' Sanders deadpanned, ''we're probably getting ready to go somewhere warm and nice for (a major bowl game on) New Year's.''


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