UT's confidence soars

When you birdie a hole in golf, it doesn't matter that you bogeyed the previous three holes. It doesn't matter how easy the course is. It doesn't matter that your approach shot got a lucky bounce just to find its way onto the green. It doesn't matter that your putt went all the way around the lip of the cup before settling into the hole.

All that matters is the number you write on your scorecard ... and that surge of confidence you feel as you head to the next tee.

That's the way it is with Tennessee's offensive football team these days. It doesn't matter that the Vols struggled for nine games. It doesn't matter that they exploited the SEC's worst defense in Game 10. It doesn't matter that they got several lucky breaks along the way.

All that matters is that the Big Orange hung 59 points on Mississippi State last weekend and heads into this Saturday's game against Vanderbilt brimming with confidence.

''Confidence helps, and I think we gained a lot of confidence,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. ''I think we had some individuals gain a lot of confidence. I think Chris Hannon (four catches for 69 yards and three TDs) will gain a lot of confidence. Mark Jones (5 catches for 90 yards and a TD) will draw some confidence from it.

''And I think Derrick Tinsley (6 catches for 61 yards and 2 TDs, plus 4 carries for 56 yards and another TD in the past four games) has gained a lot of confidence the past few weeks.''

Best of all, an offensive unit that looked hopelessly lost at times this season suddenly believes it can find its way to the end zone with regularity.

''When the individuals gain confidence, that obviously benefits the group,'' Sanders said. ''There were a lot of good things we can take from last week.''

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