Ainge makes his bid

Now you know why Tennessee has a TWO-quarterback system ...

Thirteen days after Brent Schaeffer outperformed fellow freshman Erik Ainge in the Vol opener vs. Nevada-Las Vegas, Ainge stole the spotlight in Game 2 vs. Florida.

Ainge directed three fourth-quarter scoring drives -- two for touchdowns and one for the game-winning field goal -- as the Big Orange won a 30-28 heartstopper at Neyland Stadium. For the game, Ainge posted three TDs and a field goal in six possessions. Schaeffer produced one touchdown in four four possessions.

The production levels were reversed in Game 1 vs. UNLV; Schaeffer directed four TD drives in his six possessions, Ainge guidied two out of his five.

The two-game totals show the rookie quarterbacks are in a virtual dead heat: Ainge has produced five touchdown and a field goal in 11 possessions ... Schaeffer five TDs and zero field goals in 10 possessions.

Still wonder why the Vols play TWO quarterbacks, instead of one?

As became evident in preseason drills, Ainge is a superior pocket passer. He completed 10 of 17 attempts for 118 yards in Game 1, then followed up with a 16-of-24, 192-yard effort in Game 2. His season totals show 26 completions in 41 attempts for 310 yards and FIVE touchdowns. His 16-yard TD pass to Justin Reed in the second quarter of Saturday's game was made while rolling to his left (meaning he had to throw against his momentum). His 23-yard laser beam to Bret Smith for a fourth-quarter TD was thrown off the wrong foot. One can only imagine how hard he could've thrown it if he'd taken time to set his feet!

Schaeffer, though a very good passer, is not the throwing threat Ainge is. Schaeffer completed 7 of 10 for 123 yards in the opener, 3 of 4 for 40 yards in Game 2. His season stats: 10 of 17 for 163 yards and one touchdown. Schaeffer is much more of a running threat, however. His two-game stats show 14 carries for 87 yards (a 5.4-yard average) and a touchdown.

Responding to talk that Tennessee became ''Ainge's team'' in the second half of the Florida game, head coach Phillip Fulmer said: ''There will be times when Schaeffer has the hot hand and he will be in there. We thought Ainge had it tonight. Brent gives us a lot of things.... Ainge did a good job in the system.''

Senior center Jason Respert also was careful to give Schaeffer as much praise as Ainge following the dramatic victory.

''Both of them are talented,'' he said. ''It just so happened that (Ainge) was out there (in the fourth quarter). I have faith that if Brent had been out there, he would have made plays, too. It was just that Ainge was out there.''

Considering how productively BOTH freshmen are playing, it's a safe bet that both of them will be ''out there'' a lot in the coming weeks. Two-quarterback systems are risky, to be sure. But the Vols' arrangement has produced 10 touchdowns and a field goal in 21 possessions to date.

Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories