Fulmer praises Sanders

IRVING, Texas -- With Texas A&M averaging 30.4 points per game, 15th-ranked Tennessee may have to score some serious points to win Saturday's Cotton Bowl game. Vol head man Phillip Fulmer believes his team can do that. This belief stems from a growing confidence in offensive coordinator Randy Sanders.

Despite inexperience at quarterback and a glut of injuries in the offensive line, Tennessee kept the chains moving and the scoreboard blinking. The Big Orange averaged a commendable 28.3 points per game. Fulmer thinks Sanders deserves a lot of credit for that.

''Randy has had a very good year with what he's done with the quarterbacks under very, very difficult situations,'' said Fulmer. ''In 2000, when you are 8-4 and you have a freshman quarterback and you squeeze eight wins out of that, that was a great job. It took a lot more this year.''

That was because the Vols relied on not one, but TWO freshman quarterbacks in 2004. Brent Schaeffer started the first three games and Erik Ainge the next six. Both were injured by Game 9, forcing little-used junior Rick Clausen to start at QB in Games 10 and 11, plus the SEC Championship Game. Still, the Vol attack produced.

Tennessee's offense had to be especially productive in the team's final three games because its defense was being riddled by Vanderbilt (33 points), Kentucky (31 points) and Auburn (38 points). Fortunately, Sanders' troops were equal to the task. The result was 38-33 and 37-31 defeats of Vandy and Kentucky, respectively, followed by a respectable 38-28 loss to Auburn in the SEC Championship Game.

Since the Aggies' offense is more potent than Vanderbilt's or Kentucky's and roughly equal to Auburn's, the Vol attack will be challenged to keep pace.

''They're going to score some points and we'll have to be able to respond,'' Sanders said of the Aggies.

Attacking A&M's defense will be no picnic. The Aggies limited high-scoring Texas Tech to 25 points and powerful Texas to 26 in their last two regular-season games. Earlier, they shut out Wyoming, limited Iowa State to three points and held Clemson to six.

''They have a lot of good players and they play a lot of different people,'' Sanders said. ''They do a good job of coaching them because they are so multiple. They show a lot of different looks, a lot of different coverages. They are not an easy opponent to play.''

Kickoff is scheduled for 11:10 a.m. EST. The game will be televised nationally by Fox.


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