No excuses for UT

Tennessee's football team never, ever flies to a road contest on game day. It's just never been done … until now.

With much of their home state wrecked by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, thousands of displaced Louisiana natives are temporarily being housed in hotels and motels. That left the Football Vols with a decision to make regarding tonight's game at LSU: (A) Uproot several families who lost their homes by requesting lodging or (B) Fly down on game day and fly back without spending the night.

Tennessee brass chose option B. That means the Vols must fly into Baton Rouge, deplane, loosen the kinks a bit, play the game, shower, then board the plan for the return trip to Knoxville – all in a matter of maybe 16 hours.

Obviously, this is not the ideal situation when you're playing the No. 3 team in college football. But, to his credit, UT head coach Phillip Fulmer is making the best of the situation rather than making excuses.

"I've not done it before but I've talked to some coaches who have (traveled to a road site on game day)," he said recently. "Most high school players have done it a number of times. Given the tragedy of Katrina (and now Rita), I'm comfortable with doing this."

Athletes are creatures of habit, so there is no way to know exactly how Tennessee's players will be affected by this disruption of their road routine. Fulmer is optimistic, however.

"I'll be interested seeing how we react," he said. "I think we'll be all right."

One thing the Vols can't afford to do is get so caught up in the unusual travel schedule that they lose sight of the enormity of tonight's game. A loss basically dashes UT's hopes of challenging for the league title.

"The sense of urgency has to be there," Fulmer said. "We're clearly chasing (Florida and Georgia) now. And we've got to manage a very hostile environment in Baton Rouge."

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