Rick relishes the road

During his four years as Tennessee's No. 1 quarterback Casey Clausen exhibited remarkable poise in hostile environments, going 14-1 in road starts between 2000 and 2003. Does younger brother Rick, bracketed No. 1 with Erik Ainge heading into 2005, have the same knack?

Obviously, it's too early to tell. Rick went 1-0 as a road starter in 2004, winning at Vanderbilt in his only outing on foreign soil. But if he shows the same poise playing road games that he did DISCUSSING them during the recent SEC Media Days in Birmingham, he should do just fine.

Three times sports writers tried to get him to single out specific road games as extra special. Each time Rick refused to take the bait, although he wavered a bit on the final try.

When asked about the prospect of beating Florida at The Swamp in Gainesville, he shrugged and replied:

"I think you get just as much fun out of beating anybody on the road. It's your 70 guys against everybody else, their band, the booing and everything like that. It's you with your back against the wall , going out against everybody else."

Another writer asked about the hostile crowd the Vols will face at Tuscaloosa, since many Alabama fans blame UT coach Phillip Fulmer for the Tide's recent NCAA penalties. Clausen again declined to attach any special significance to the game.

"Anytime you play anybody on the road, it's a rivalry," he said. "The off-field distractions kind of help the media and fans spice it up a little bit. But, whenever you play anybody in the SEC you've got to bring your A-game or you're going to get beat."

Not content to let the issue die, another writer asked Clausen what it would mean to start in Baton Rouge against LSU, the school he attended before transferring to UT two years ago.

Clausen initially hedged a bit, noting: "I want to be the starter for EVERY game." The more he pondered the prospect of facing his old team, however, the more intrigued he seemed to be.

"Going to LSU is going to be a lot of fun because I know those guys," he said. "I've been there before and there's not too many places like Death Valley on a Saturday night."


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