Can UT hang with 'Canes?

Based on Tennessee's first eight performances of the 2003 football season, oddsmakers give the Big Orange has virtually no chance to win Saturday's game at Miami, establishing the Hurricanes as a 12-point favorite. UT head coach Phillip Fulmer seems unconcerned.

''It's not often that we go into a game as that big an underdog,'' he said during his Tuesday news conference. ''It still comes down to that particular team at that particular time. If we'll take the challenge to be the best we can be, we have the talent to win ANY game left on our schedule.''

Tennessee's talent isn't the problem, however. Tennessee's execution is.

''Games like these usually come down to execution,'' Fulmer conceded, later adding: ''Our execution at times hasn't been what we want.''

Actually, Tennessee's execution for roughly 80 percent of each game is not what the Vols want. Still, Fulmer seems optimistic. Asked if he thinks UT will pull out all the stops against the heavily favored Hurricanes, the Vol coach replied: ''I think we'll do what we need to do to win -- which is execute better. We've got plenty of plays in our offense. It's just a matter of executing those plays. I don't think a trick play is going to win or lose this ballgame. Certainly, there are opportunities there to do some things.''

Tennessee has struggled to run the ball against quality opponents this fall, rushing for just 4 net yards vs. Auburn, 61 vs. Georgia, 117 vs. South Carolina and 139 vs. Florida. If the Vols are to beat Miami, Fulmer figures they'll need to do better.

''We've got to make 'em respect the run,'' he said. ''That's going to be real crucial in the ballgame. We've got to make them get their safeties involved (in run support). That gives you some one-on-one opportunities (in the passing game). They haven't had to do that a whole bunch against the people they've played.''

Even in last weekend's 31-7 loss to Virginia Tech, Miami limited the Hokies to 219 in yards, including a mere 44 passing yards. Discounting a 46-yard touchdown pass, Virginia Tech's other completions amounted to a net of minus-two yards.

How did Tech win? Simple. The Hokies scored 21 of their 31 points off Miami miscues -- 7 coming off a 28-yard fumble return, 7 coming off a 51-yard interception return and 7 coming off a drive that followed an interception.

''Virginia Tech had 219 total yards and won the game big,'' Fulmer noted. ''That tells you just how big turnovers can be.''

Since Tennessee ranks 114th nationally (out of 117 Div. 1 programs) in forcing turnovers, the Vols can't rely on Tech's formula to beat Miami.

''We have to get more takeaways,'' Fulmer said, ''We're going to work on that diligently.''

No matter how diligently the Vols work, they can't count on 21 points off Miami turnovers. Thus, they'll have to play at peak level on offense, defense and special teams.

''To win, we'll have to put it all together,'' Fulmer said. ''We'll have to play our best game of the year.''

Even that may not be enough to produce a victory. Still, Fulmer is upbeat.

''We have an opportunity to make this a very memorable November,'' he said.

That'd be nice because September and October were downright forgettable.

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