Vols run past Tech, 42-17

Tennessee ''pounded the rock'' Saturday night and, in the process, pounded Louisiana Tech, as well.

Cedric Houston ran for 160 yards and Gerald Riggs added 116 -- each carrying 16 times -- as the Vols rallied from a rocky start to beat the Bulldogs 42-17. The ground game amassed 347 rushing yards -- most in a game since the Vanderbilt outing in 1994 -- and averaged a healthy 6.8 yards per carry.

''Ced's doing a great job and Gerald's doing a great job,'' head coach Phillip Fulmer said. ''The offensive line's obviously doing some things but they're getting a lot of yards on their own right now. That's what we need; we really haven't had that (in the previous two seasons).''

Freshman quarterback Erik Ainge did the rest, coming off the bench to complete 10 of 15 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns as the Vols moved to 3-0. Ainge directed five of Tennessee's six touchdown drives. Starter Brent Schaeffer directed the first two series, struggled, then saw Ainge run the next eight consecutive possessions. Schaeffer finished 3 of 7 passing for 50 yards and a touchdown. All told, Tennessee piled up 595 yards of total offense.

Sophomore wideout Bret Smith had a breakout game, catching three passes for 78 yards and touchdowns covering 60 and 4 yards.

''There's some firepower out there,'' Fulmer said. ''With the running backs doing what they're doing ... the line and the receivers. And both of those young quarterbacks are pretty good.''

Although Ainge outperformed Schaeffer for the second week in a row, Fulmer said ''I think we're going to play with both all year long. We'll need both of them. Brent Schaeffer will have his day, too. They're a thrill-a-minute, those two.''

Ainge credited to his success -- and the success of the entire offense -- to superior blocking.

''Our offensive line has played great all season,'' he said, ''but I think tonight they showed how good they can be.... We showed we can play with finesse and we can get after people between the tackles.''

Ainge also gave a big share of the credit to Tennessee's pass-catching corps.

''I think we have the best receiving corps in the country, and I stand by that,'' he said. ''We can put about eight guys on the field and have confidence in every one of them.''

Ryan Moats, the NCAA's leading rusher, carried 21 times for 97 yards to pace Tech, now 2-2.

Starting quarterback Donald Allen was injured on Louisiana Tech's first offensive series. Backup Matt Kubik came on to complete 17 of 30 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown.

After seeing his secondary torched for the second week in a row (Florida's Chris Leak did the honors last Saturday), Fulmer noted that ''We're young back there but they're learning. We're not where we want to be.''

Kubik's top target was Tramissian Davis, who caught six balls for 127 yards. After being burned for two first-quarter touchdowns, Tennessee's defense stiffened a bit thereafter. Tech gained 188 first-quarter yards but only 147 in the remaining three quarters.

''We started slow and gave up too many yards early,'' Fulmer said. ''The last two and a half quarters, we played really good defense. We still have a lot of work to do but there was progress today.''

Tech shocked by the Vols with a 97-yard touchdown drive on its third possession. Kubik hit Davis for 29 yards to open the drive and found Julius Cosby with a 33-yard to close it.

The Bulldogs' 7-0 lead lasted just 19 seconds, as Houston carried for 36 yards on the first play of Tennessee's ensuing possession and rambled 37 to paydirt on the second play.

''That was big ... BIG,'' Fulmer said. ''To take it the distance that quick a heck of an effort by the offensive team.''

Kubik continued to torch Tennessee's secondary, however. He hit Seneca Chambers for 29 yards to open the next possession and found Davis for 16 moments later. Moats then made his biggest run of the game at this point, popping outside and breaking a couple of tackles on a 37-yard TD run that gave the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead.

Ainge directed his second consecutive scoring drive, again getting plenty of help from the ground game. Riggs rambled for gains of 19, 13 and 15 yards to ignite the drive. Ainge hit fullback Cory Anderson for 18 yards on a swing pass, then found C.J. Fayton in the back-right corner of the end zone on a 13-yard TD throw that tied the score at 14-all.

After a three-and-out, Ainge put together his third scoring drive in four possessions on the next drive, guiding the Vols 74 yards in just three plays. The biggie was the 60-yard strike to Smith that gave Tennessee a 21-14 lead.

Ainge directed another three-play touchdown march moments later. Getting the ball with just 1:06 left in the half, he hit Tony Brown for 21 yards, found Cory Anderson for 8, then handed to Houston, who rambled 27 yards to score with just 21 seconds left in the half.

The Vols expanded on their 28-14 halftime lead on their third possession of the third quarter. Ainge hit Smith for 14 yards, then found Riggs for 12 on a screen pass. Riggs made a nifty 18-yard run to the Tech 3-yard line and Ainge hit Smith with a four-yard TD pass as the lead swelled to 35-14.

After a Louisiana Tech field goal narrowed the gap to 35-17, Schaeffer got another chance to run the attack. He promptly directed an 80-yard touchdown march. Schaeffer completed a 10-yard pass to Derrick Tinsley, then handed to Chris Hannon on an end-around that gained 38 yards. Moments later Schaeffer found Robert Meachem on a 24-yard touchdown hookup to conclude the scoring.

Strongside linebacker Omar Gaither, making his first career start, seemed to be everywhere. He led Tennessee's defense with 11 tackles and also recorded an interception.

''Omar's just been looking for the opportunity,'' Fulmer said. ''He's played a lot of good football for us -- special teams and in our Mustang package. Now as a starter he's got a chance to go and play.''

The head man also was pleased by the work of another linebacker. Reserve Daniel Brooks weighed in with two tackles, including one big hit on Moats.

''I was really glad to see Daniel Brooks make a play,'' Fulmer said. ''Hopefully, he keeps coming to the front because we need that really bad. I told him it was time to take his tutu (ballerina's skirt) off and start playing football.''

The Vols face their biggest challenge to date this Saturday, hosting an Auburn team that boasts two of the country's top rushers -- Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown.

''They've got two that are as good as anybody in America,'' Fulmer noted. ''They gave us a good dose of reality last year. It's been awhile since we've played against that kind of speed. Hopefully, we can take the next step as a defensive football team.''


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