''I think the offensive line really has played pretty well,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said this week. ''I thought they played well against South Carolina (Game 4) and I thought they played pretty good against Auburn (Game 5). Auburn was awfully good upfront, and we really didn't give them (linemen) a whole lot of chances to come off and try to knock Auburn off the ball.''
Indeed. Tennessee tailbacks Cedric Houston and Jabari Davis carried just nine times between them. The other seven rushing attempts were credited to quarterback Casey Clausen, who was sacked or forced to scramble as the Vols put the ball in the air a whopping 47 times.
Despite the miniscule rushing total, Sanders insists the Vol ground game wasn't far from being very productive last weekend.
''Gosh, we were really close to popping a couple of runs that ended up gaining one or two yards ... REALLY close,'' he said. ''Had we stayed with it (running game), I felt like we could've run the ball.''
After watching Tennessee amass 355 passing yards vs. Auburn, Georgia's coaching staff is sure to take steps to slow down the Vols' aerial attack. That could place an even greater premium on the Vols' ability to run the ball effectively Saturday night.
''It's certainly easier when you can (run the ball),'' Sanders said. ''I don't mind throwing it 47 times but it's certainly easier to win the game if you can run the ball. I don't remember the last time Tennessee won a game throwing it 47 times.''
Actually, it has happened only twice in school history. Peyton Manning threw 49 passes in a 30-24 defeat of UCLA in 1997 and threw 53 passes in a 44-20 defeat of Southern Mississippi the same season. Counting last weekend's Auburn game, though, Tennessee stands 4-10-1 when it attempts 44 or more passes in a game.
Here's a recap:
Manning threw 65 passes vs. Florida in '96 ... UT lost 35-29
Andy Kelly threw 60 passes vs. Notre Dame in '90 ... UT lost 34-29
Kelly threw 56 passes vs. Florida in '91 ... UT lost 35-18
Kelly threw 55 passes vs. Colorado in '90 ... UT tied 31-31
Manning threw 53 passes vs. Southern Miss in '97 ... UT won 44-20
Manning threw 51 passes vs. Florida in '97 ... UT lost 33-20
Manning threw 49 passes vs. UCLA in '97 ... UT won 30-24
Clausen threw 47 passes vs. Auburn in 2003 ... UT lost 28-21
Manning threw 46 passes vs. Arkansas in '95 ... UT won 49-31
Bubba Wyche threw 45 passes vs. Auburn in '68 ... UT lost 28-14
Tee Martin threw 44 passes vs. Arkansas in '99 ... UT lost 28-24
Manning threw 44 passes vs. Ole Miss in '97 ... UT won 31-17
Jeff Francis threw 44 passes vs. Alabama in '87 ... UT lost 41-22
Clausen threw 44 passes vs. Florida in 2002 ... UT lost 30-13