Two backs over 1,000 yards?

Having a 1,000-yard rusher is an accomplishment. Having TWO 1,000-yard rushers the same year is just about unheard-of. But that's what the Tennessee Vols will achieve if Cedric Houston (943 yards) gains 57 yards vs. Texas A&M in the upcoming Cotton Bowl game. Gerald Riggs hit the milestone in the SEC Championship Game against Auburn and now has 1,005 yards.

Riggs is pleased by the accomplishment but concedes that he owes his blockers a big share of the credit.

''That's great for them, as well, especially with the injuries and the ups and downs that unit has had all year,'' he said. ''Everybody knows it starts with the offensive line, so having two 1,000-yard backs shows how hard they've worked and how good they really are.''

Guard Cody Douglas admits that the blockers take great pride in seeing a Vol back gain 1,000 yards. Seeing TWO backs reach that level is a double thrill.

''I think that's definitely a tribute to us and the hard work we've put in ... and the work Coach (Jimmy Ray) Stevens put in getting us prepared,'' he said. ''Having two guys go over 1,000 yards is huge. We're looking forward to having that.''

Center Jason Respert echoed those sentiments.

''That's something we're proud about,'' he said. ''That would be nice for us. If we can get Cedric over 1,000 that means we're running the ball well, which means our offense is doing well. We look forward to accomplishing that.''

Given how poorly Tennessee ran the ball in 2003, the production of the ground game in 2004 has been a very pleasant surprise.

''We didn't necessarily think TWO people would go over 1,000,'' Respert conceded. ''Back in preseason, all we were worrying about was running the football -- no matter who ran it and how many yards they had, as long as we ran it.''

No one is happier about the productivity of the ground attack than Vol head man Phillip Fulmer. He thinks Houston and Riggs deserve more credit than they're getting.

''I think it's a tremendous compliment to the line and to Jimmy Ray and to the backs,'' Fulmer said. ''The line has done a good job but I think the backs have made the biggest difference. Our goal was to have more 14- and 40-yard runs. We were getting tackled (last year) when we blocked everybody for four-yard runs too much. The backs have really made a big difference, and the line has done a good job.''

A key factor in the revitalized ground game was the emergence of first-year fullback Cory Anderson, a 6-3, 265-pound brute who has been a devastating lead blocker.

''Cory Anderson has been a big plus for us,'' Fulmer said. ''It's not that Troy (2003 fullback Troy Fleming ) didn't give us that, but Troy wasn't 265 pounds and able to move people like Cory has.''


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