Clausen's calm ... as usual

Most people would be keyed up about leading a top-10 team against another top-10 team in one of college football's most hostile environments, especially with the game on national TV.

Not Rick Clausen. If Tennessee's senior quarterback were any more relaxed, he'd need No-Doz to make it through practice. Consider the low-key answers he gave when quizzed about Saturday night's SEC showdown with Florida in Gainesville:

RTN: How much did it mean to find out early last week you were going to start this game?

CLAUSEN: Not a whole heck of a lot. I felt like I was the starter last week against UAB, as well, because I knew I was going to play. I didn't know exactly when but I knew I had to prepare as if I was the starter, so nothing for me has changed.

RTN: Isn't there more sense of urgency since you'll be taking the first snap, instead of watching for a couple of series?

CLAUSEN: No. Not at all. Whether I'm out there or Erik (Ainge) is out there, we have to move the football. Basically, that is the job of the quarterback – to put the offense in the best plays possible in order to move the ball up and down the field. As long as we do that we'll be fine.

RTN: Does Tennessee's offense have something to prove after scoring just 17 points against Alabama-Birmingham?

CLAUSEN: No. We don't have anything to prove to anybody but ourselves. If the fans didn't like it, oh well. We didn't execute when we had opportunities, and you've got to give UAB credit for that. We know what our goals are and we know what we have ahead of us. We're just going to go out there and play the way we know how.

RTN: How tough is it playing at Florida Field?

CLAUSEN: There's not too many places like the Swamp. It'll probably be Urban Meyer's first "big game," so those guys will be ready to play. The fans will be a little wound up and it'll be a great football atmosphere.

RTN: Are you aware that no Clausen has ever lost at The Swamp? (Older brother Casey was 2-0)

CLAUSEN: Casey did a good job down there. You've got to give him and those teams credit. They went down there, took care of business and did what they needed to do. We're just going to go down there, have as much fun as possible and try to execute the way we know how.

RTN: Did Casey share any secrets about winning at The Swamp?

CLAUSEN: No. He just said to approach it the way you do every game. The one thing he said you've got to try to stay away from is getting too tight. He said if people get too nervous, that's when mistakes happen. That's when they get distracted and the game kind of consumes them. He said the biggest thing is to go out and play loose. It's a great college football atmosphere; go out there and enjoy it.

RTN: Does it help that you visited the Swamp as an LSU player three years ago?

CLAUSEN: A little bit. I went down there in 2002 and we beat Florida in the Swamp. We took the crowd out of it pretty quick. It just goes to show that if you jump on them, put ‘em down kind of early, good things can happen. But this is a different football team than the 2002 Florida team was. These guys are extremely talented. They've got a lot of team speed, and they'll be ready to play.

RTN: How have your teammates rallied around you since you were announced as the starter?

CLAUSEN: I don't consider it rallying around me. They know what I'm capable of doing and they know what I bring to the table – which is spreading the ball around a little bit. If guys are open they know I'm probably going to get ‘em the football. That's the one thing they understand: If they work hard and get open, they're going to get the football.

RTN: There were several dropped passes in the UAB game. Has that been a focus in practice?

CLAUSEN: Yes. But it was the first game, and not too many people in their first game came out looking magnificent. It was our first game and we kind of had to knock some rust off. But we can't make those mistakes and beat a team like Florida. We have to catch the football, we have to throw the football and we have to run the football. If we execute the way we know how, we'll be fine.

RTN: So execution is the key?

CLAUSEN: Yeah. We can't make mistakes. When we get down in the red zone we have to put the ball in the end zone. We can't kick field goals against a team like Florida because their offense is very good and they're going to score some points. We need to put the ball in the end zone. That's the big thing: We have to make the most of our opportunities when we have them.

RTN: Is a quick start really important in this game?

CLAUSEN: Whether we start off good or start off bad, we're still going to have to play for 60 minutes. This won't be a first-half game or a first-quarter game. We're going to have to play for 60 minutes, whether we're up or down. We know we're going to get Florida's best, and we have to be prepared for that, no matter what happens.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories