There's no place like Dome

Dome, Dome on the range, where the Vols and the Tigers will play; Where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the wind never gets in the way.

Tennessee's football players may be disappointed that their bowl destination is Atlanta but they're not at all disappointed to be playing indoors. After enduring freezing cold and blustery winds in the regular-season finale at Lexington, Ky., they welcome the temperature-regulated, wind-free atmosphere of the Georgia Dome.

''Everybody's asking about our bad luck in the Georgia Dome but, shoot, I love playing in the Georgia Dome,'' Vol quarterback Casey Clausen said. ''For some reason we haven't played very well as a team there but I kind of enjoy playing indoors. Being in a dome, everything's real clear, compact and you can see real well.''

Receiver Jayson Swain is also happy to be playing indoors after the nippy conditions the Vols encountered at Commonwealth Stadium last time out.

''I forgot all about the weather at Kentucky, although I don't know how you could,'' he said, grinning broadly. ''It was pretty cold, about 30 degrees, with the wind blowing pretty hard. It was OK once you got out there and got loose. The gloves and the heater on the sidelines came in real handy.''

Tennessee's passing game -- red-hot in a 59-21 Game 10 blowout of Mississippi State and a 48-0 Game 11 trouncing of Vanderbilt -- was as cold as the weather in Game 12 at Kentucky. Does bad weather affect the air attack that much?

''It does to a point, but you do what you have to to win,'' Swain said. ''Fortunately, we're in a Dome this game, where there won't be any cold weather, so we'll be able to throw the ball and catch the ball better than we did in the Kentucky game.''

The Vols had better throw it and catch it better than they did at Lexington. After completing 35 of 51 pass attempts (68.6 per cent) for 553 yards and nine touchdowns in Game 10 and 11, Clausen slumped to 14 of 30 (46.6 per cent) for 158 yards and one TD in Game 12. The Vol QB was slowed by a flu-type virus that day but he did not handle the weather conditions particularly well, either. That's why playing the Peach Bowl indoors should be to UT's advantage.

''You know what the weather's going to be like, so that's nice, especially when your quarterback doesn't like it cold,'' Vol offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said.

The only problem with playing at The Georgia Dome is visual. Following the ball's flight in an enclosed area requires some adjustment.

''Your depth perception is a little different when you throw the ball and it's a little different picking up the football from a catching standpoint,'' Sanders said. ''I remember the first time we played down there against Auburn in the (1997) SEC Championship Game we had a lot of drops because it's a different background.''

Still, a unique background isn't nearly as problematical as cold and wind. The weather conditions undoubtedly hurt the Vols' offensive performance in their lackluster 20-7 defeat of Kentucky.

''It was obviously a factor,'' Sanders said, ''but I don't think it was the cold so much as the wind. Kentucky's secondary would back up a little bit, then sit down and make you try to throw it deep. If you threw it deep, the wind would blow it everywhere. It was a little harder to connect on those things.

''Probably the biggest factor, though, was Casey being sick and not practicing much that week. That was indicative of what happens to a guy when he doesn't have a chance to practice.''


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