''We haven't run a trick play on the first play of a game yet,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders quipped. ''Maybe that's the key.''
All kidding aside, Sanders finds nothing funny about the fact Tennessee has scored just 21 first-quarter points through eight games. Still, the coordinator suspects that he knows why his troops have struggled to dent the scoreboard early.
''I think we have a good running team but we're not a GREAT running team,'' he said. ''I think we have a good passing team but we do not have a GREAT passing team.
''Right now, the run game is very dependent on the pass and the pass is very dependent on the run. So, you almost have to get one thing going -- or get the defense to defend one thing -- before the other wakes up and has a chance.''
After enjoying great success with the passing attack against Auburn and Alabama, Tennessee came out throwing last weekend against Duke. Several potential big plays failed to materialize, however, when Casey Clausen and his wideouts missed connections by a matter of inches. This left Tennessee with no tochdowns for three quarters and a ticked-off quarterback.
''We had several plays that were just off the fingertips,'' Sanders noted. ''I think Casey got frustrated because we were just a little bit off a couple of times. We didn't connect on a few things, and I think that was the biggest source of his frustration.''
Given that this week's opponent, Miami, has the NCAA's No. 3 pass defense, Tennessee seems likely to run the ball in the early going. If the Hurricanes mass to stop the run, however, the Vols will have no choice but to go to the airways.
''We definitely need to start faster,'' Sanders said. ''We've scored 21 points in the first quarter, which isn't close to good enough. I don't have an explanation for it.''
Still, you wonder how Tennessee's attack can look as good as it did in the five overtimes vs. Alabama (scoring four touchdowns and a field) and look as inept as it has on other occasions.
''I told the team, 'We're just going out this week and pretend we're in the fifth overtime each series,' '' Sanders quipped. ''Hopefully, we can play with that kind of effort, intensity and desire because this offensive team has shown that, when we have to get something done, we've been able to do it.''