No debate on 4th down

Given the perception that Phillip Fulmer is a conservative coach, Tennessee football fans may be surprised to learn that the Vol skipper never considered taking the safe way out and kicking a field goal on fourth-and-goal at the Miami 2-yard line last Saturday.

Given the perception that Phillip Fulmer is a conservative coach, Tennessee football fans may be surprised to learn that the Vol skipper never considered taking the safe way out and kicking a field goal on fourth-and-goal at the Miami 2-yard line last Saturday.

With the score tied 3-3 and just seconds remaining in the second quarter, many UT fans assumed Fulmer would settle for the short field goal and be happy to go to halftime leading 6-3. But he didn't. In fact, he never really considered it.

When a third-down rollout by Casey Clausen failed to gain yardage, the Vols found themselves facing fourth-down-and-decision time.

''Phillip kind of turned and looked at me,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders recalled. ''I just said, 'Coach, we gotta go.' I think that's what he felt, too. There wasn't really any discussion or hesitation. We had moved the ball pretty well and it was our first time down there (inside the Orange Area). Even if you don't make it, they (Hurricanes) have 15 seconds and 90-some yards to go, so it wasn't like it was a big gamble. Obviously, three points were critical but we weren't going to beat Miami kicking field goals.''

Asked about the perception that he and Fulmer are ''conservative'' in UT's gameplans and play selection, Sanders smiled.

''I don't think we have been conservative at all this year, as far as our approach,'' the coordinator said. ''A lot of times the things we've called down the field (long passes) haven't necessarily been there and we haven't thrown them ... or they haven't worked or whatever.

''Usually, when fans say 'Open it up,' they mean 'Call plays that work.' Some of the games where we've been credited with being the most wide-open were some of the most conservative plans we've had. Some of the runs would pop out of there or a receiver might catch (a short pass), break a tackle and turn it into a 50-yard gain. Suddenly, you're wide-open.''


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