Sanders looks for answers.

Tennessee doesn't have an offense, and offensive coordinator Randy Sanders doesn't have an answer.

The Vols had just two scoring drives of more than 32 yards against a South Carolina defense that ranks among the worst in the SEC. Four times, Tennessee took position inside Gamecock territory and failed to score. UT fumbled inside the 1-yard line on a play that would have given the Vols a 19-7 first-half lead. UT had less than 100 passing yards.

It added up to an ugly 16-15 loss in one of the worst played games I've seen in my 21 seasons of covering Tennessee football.

Sanders was flustered during his post-game interview.

He was asked what's left to try?

``I don't know,'' Sanders said. ``We definitely need to shake things up.''

How? What do you do? UT has run from the Power I, thrown from the shotgun, spread the field, utilized two tight ends and rotated quarterbacks. What's left? The Flex-bone?

``You've got to try to fix what's wrong, but it's hard to fix because it's not just one area,'' Sanders said.

``It's baffling, very, very baffling. It's really frustrating when you know you've got the right play called and it's not executed. You're not going to be right 100 percent of the time, but when you are right, we still don't get it done.

``It's possible that rotating quarterbacks has affected that, but last year, we rotated quarterbacks and it didn't affect us.''

The quarterback rotation against South Carolina was baffling. Rick Clausen was benched after throwing an interception on his second series, a turnover that helped provide the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead.

Erik Ainge engineered a 72-yard touchdown drive on his first possession and a 32-yard march for a field goal on his second. For the next seven series, Ainge was totally ineffective. He was 3 of 4 passing for 44 yards on his first drive, then 6 of 17 for 21 yards the rest of the game.

Ainge has been a 41 percent passer this season - and you can' win in this league with a 41 percent passer.

In the fourth quarter, the Vols asked Clausen to bail them out. It was too late. He led a field-goal drive of 54 yards to take a 15-13 lead with 7:39 left. On his only other possession, UT made one first down, then failed to convert a fourth-and-5.

Tennessee stayed with Ainge too long as he had trouble with South Carolina's blitzes and man coverage. I'm convinced UT would have won had Clausen started the second half.

Asked if he considered going with Clausen sooner, Sanders said: ``Hind sight is 20-20. Maybe we should have. Erik had done a lot of good things and we needed to throw the ball downfield. We felt he gave us a better chance.''

Since the first two series against UAB, Ainge has had two good possessions the rest of the season. What makes you think Ainge gives you a better chance to win? And once he starts struggling, he's proven he can't play his way out of a funk.

One theory is to play Ainge for two reasons. One, give him confidence or, two, find out if you can win with him next year.

At this point, Clausen gives the Vols the best chance to win. Start Clausen and bring Ainge off the bench. But at the first sign of struggle, Ainge needs to relocate to the sideline - if UT wants to win.

Defenses have figured out that you blitz Ainge and drop in coverage against Clausen. It's clear that Clausen still has a better grasp of the offense and can make the right checks. That might not be good enough to beat Georgia, but it can beat South Carolina - and Memphis and Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

Ainge said the fault of the offense lies with the players, not the coaches.

``I've harped on it before and I'll say it again, it's not coach (Phillip) Fulmer, it's not coach (John) Chavis, it's not Randy Sanders,'' Ainge said of UT's 3-4 season. ``It's Rick and I and the offense as a group. We're not making plays.

``Coach Sanders dialed up some plays (against South Carolina) that if caught, it's a touchdown. Or if I wait a half second more, it's possibly a touchdown or a 20-yard gain to Jayson Swain. It's not them, it's us. I feel comfortable putting that on Rick and my shoulders.''

Tennessee has scored just 113 points in seven games, the lowest figure since the 1974 team had 96 points. Even that horrible 1988 UT team that started 0-6 scored 140 points in seven games. And remember, this season, UT's defense has scored or set up 23 points.

Thus, UT's offense has produced 12.9 points per game. It has only seven touchdown drives of more than 33 yards. It couldn't score in four possessions that started inside South Carolina territory, failing to generate a first down on any of them.

Sanders said it's been hard to find continuity on offense for a variety of reasons.

``It's kind of like a car with four leaky tires,'' Sanders said. ``When you fill them with air, it runs pretty good. But pretty soon, the air runs out of the tires and it's not a smooth ride.''


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