Clausen, Peace thrive in OT

Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen and linebacker Robert Peace probably wish every Vol game was an overtime affair.

Saturday's 51-43 five-OT win at Alabama saw Clausen extend his record in overtime games to 3-0. He beat Arkansas in six overtimes last season and has beaten South Carolina and Alabama already this season. Peace, meanwhile, recorded a career-high 16 tackles (11 solos, 5 assists, 5 minus-yardage stops) vs. Bama. His previous personal best of 15 was registered in last season's Arkansas marathon. His third-best outing, appropriately enough, came against Carolina earlier this season.

Speaking on his Sunday teleconference, Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer praised Peace for coming through time and again.

''He was everywhere,'' Fulmer noted. ''We've turned him as our (SEC) Defensive Player of the Week representative. Robert has had a phenomenal year. He's smart, tough, experienced and a good tackler.''

Clausen's poise and determination proved crucial in the high-tension setting of Saturday's Bama game, as well.

''He doesn't get rattled but he gets mad as heck sometimes,'' Fulmer said. ''His emotion spills over into the entire football team.''

Fulmer also noted that guard Anthony Herrera and center Scott Wells were vocal leaders throughout the extra periods on Saturday.

''Herrera was hugging peoiple necks,'' the head man said, ''and Wells really got into it.''

As the game passed from one overtime to another to another, Fulmer liked what he saw from his players.

''It was unbelievable on the sidelines,'' he said. ''Right after regulation was over, we said, 'Let's go win this thing.' The energy was tremendous. They really came together.''

Ole Miss and Arkansas set the NCAA record by going seven overtimes two years ago, but UT-Arkansas in 2002 ranks second and UT-Bama in 2003 ranks third. Thus, Tennessee has played in two of the three longest games in NCAA history. Still, Fulmer likes the OT format used in the college game.

''I think it's fine,'' he said. ''I don't think it should end up in a tie; that'd be the worst. This really makes for an exciting end to the game. And it's fair, where one kick doesn't end the game (with only one team getting a possession) like it might in sudden death (the NFL format).''

Although Tennessee played poorly for roughly 57 of the 60 minutes of regulation play, Fulmer thought Saturday's game ranks with the all-time UT-Bama classics.

''It'd have to be up there at the top,'' he said. ''Not in the sense that it meant the most or was breaking a streak, but it was two determined teams looking to get back on track. There was a lot of energy on display, especially from our quarterback.''

Clausen was at his best on Tennessee's final drive of regulation. Down 20-13, he engineered an 87-yard drive in nine plays that tied the score and sent the game into OT. Clausen appears to be at his best running the so-called ''two-minute offense'' at the end of a half or end of a game. Thus, Fulmer was asked if he has considered playing the two-minute offense more in other situations.

Fulmer conceded that the Vols have enjoyed some success with the hurry-up attack but noted that, when it doesn't produce first downs, UT runs the risk of putting its defense back on the field after a minute or so of rest.

''We'll take a look at that,'' the Vol coach said, ''but I'm not ready to scrap the run game. We want to be balanced because that makes it harder for a defense to prepare for you. We'll have it (two-minute offense) to use if we need to ... or want to.''

Two Vols are listed as doubtful for Saturday's 4 p.m. home game with Duke. Tailback Cedric Houston has a high-ankle sprain and safety Rashad Baker has a sprained knee.

Ultimately, Fulmer thought UT's conditioning may have been decisive. The Vols were able to insert No. 4 tailback Corey Larkins in the final overtime, and his quickness gave the weary Bama defenders fits.

''Conditioning paid off for us,'' Fulmer said. ''That was an advantage for us as we went through the overtime periods.

''We were able to put a couple of fresh legs (Larkins') in there at the end. You could see on film -- heck, you could see during the game -- that that made a difference.''

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