Houston's running wild

Vol football coach Phil Fulmer heard all of the presason grumbling about senior running back Cedric Houston: He lacks vision. He lacks instincts. He lacks breakaway speed. He lacks durability.

Apparently, Houston heard it, too. Running like a man determined to silence his critics, Houston carried 16 times for 160 yards in Saturday night's 42-17 defeat of Louisiana Tech. The performance continued a torrid start in 2004 which has seen the 5-11, 220-pounder gain 310 yards in three games, averaging 103.3 yards per game and a whopping 8.4 yards per carry.

''He's running wide open ... got a lot to prove,'' Fulmer said. ''He's heard about it (his lack of big-play potential) all year long from everybody. If he ever gets to where he plays a whole game, he may have 300 yards.''

Limited by a sore ankle, Houston has just 37 carries through thus far, an average of 12.3 per game. By comparison, backup tailback Gerald Riggs has 44 carries, an average of nearly 15 per game. Riggs' stats include 86 yards per game and 5.9 per carry. Those are excellent numbers but they pale in comparison to Houston's.

Most of the yardage Houston and Riggs gained vs. Louisiana Tech came on runs to the right side of the line. Right guard Cody Douglas and right tackle Arron Sears opened some gaping holes in the Bulldog defense that often allowed Houston and Riggs to get five yards downfield before they even encountered a defender.

''Cody and Sears did a great job over there,'' Houston said. ''I know everytime I went over there there's going to be somewhere to run. I just got to find the hole and run.''

Douglas said he and Sears take great pride in their tandem blocking.

''Before every game me and Arron say to each other, 'Man, let's go to work,' '' Douglas said. ''I think we've been doing that throughout the season. But we have a great group of backs who are running hard and making us look good.''

Fulmer applauded Douglas and Sears but noted that backup right guard David Ligon also did some big-time blocking Saturday night.

''Cody's playing well, David (Ligon) is playing well and Arron Sears is playing very well,'' the head man said. ''They're banged up, though. We've got to get them healthy before these next two ball games (vs. Auburn and at Georgia).''

Tennessee's first seven running plays produced gains of 5, 9, 2 and 19 yards by Houston, a 19-yarder by Riggs, then gains of 36 and 37 yards by Houston -- the last one resulting in the Vols' first touchdown. The ground game continued to roll on the next series as Riggs ran for gains of 19, 13, 1 and 15 yards. Finally, Tech began crowding the line of scrimmage to try and stop the bleeding.

''I think that set the tone for the game,'' Douglas said. ''I believe it had a great effect on the passing game. It let some of our receivers get in single coverage, where they could get out there and make plays.''

Even with Tech massing to stop the run during the final three quarters of play, Tennessee piled up 347 rushing yards -- most since the 1994 Vanderbilt game -- and gained 595 total yards. The Vols may need similar productivity this Saturday night against unbeaten Auburn, which moved to 4-0 by drubbing The Citadel 33-3.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories