Hail Mary? Hail yes!

The last time Tennessee visited the Swamp, quarterback Casey Clausen completed a 50-yard Hail Mary pass to James Banks on the final play of the first half, providing a big touchdown and a huge emotional lift that carried the Vols to a 24-10 victory.

When Tennessee returns to Florida Field tonight, Casey's brother Rick will be the quarterback. His arm isn't as strong as Casey's, so you wonder if he has enough oomph to get the ball to the end zone from midfield in case UT needs another Hail Mary miracle.

"Sure," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. "He's not going to throw it 70 to 75 yards but there are very few occasions in a game that you have to throw one that far."

Besides, Clausen may not be at quarterback if the Vols face a Hail Mary situation. Game 1 starter Erik Ainge is due to get some snaps in a reserve capacity tonight.

"Erik's going to play in the first half," Sanders said. "I fully anticipate that, unless something really unusual happens."

Sanders and head coach Phillip Fulmer have been second-guessed for pulling Ainge after he guided UT to a field goal and a touchdown on the first two possessions of Game 1 vs. UAB. Ainge returned after sitting out one series but never regained the rhythm he showed before he was lifted.

Asked if he will risk breaking momentum by pulling Clausen to get Ainge some snaps vs. Florida, Sanders shrugged.

"I'm a little concerned about breaking momentum, yeah," the coordinator said. "But we're going in with a definite plan to play Erik. If, after Rick's first two series it's 14-0, maybe Rick goes back in at that point. I don't know. That's something we'll have to discuss."

So, how has Ainge dealt with the disappointment of losing his first-team job just one game into the 2005 season?

"I think he's handled it well," Sanders said. "It's not easy for him. Other than separating his shoulder, it's the first real adversity he's had here. But I think he's handled it as well as you can expect a guy to."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories