Hyams on Game

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said he's been in the league long enough to know that his team won't get the benefit of the doubt on calls from SEC officials.

Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson feels the same way about his team.

Earlier this season, Vanderbilt got a bad call when a Georgia receiver dropped a touchdown pass but the replay system malfunctioned, giving the Dawgs six points.

Against Florida two weeks ago, Vanderbilt receiver Earl Bennett scored a touchdown to cut the gap to 35-34 late in the fourth quarter. Vandy coach Bobby Johnson planned to go for two to avert overtime. But the officials called Bennett for a picky ``celebration'' penalty. The 15-yard infraction forced Vandy to kick a game-tying extra point. The Commodores lost in double overtime.

Asked if he agreed with Brook's assessment of SEC officiating, Johnson said: ``I tend to, yeah. I've seen celebrations that would shame Johnny (actually Billy) `White Shoes' Johnson not get called. Yeah, I believe it.''

Johnson said he's talked to SEC coordinator of officials Bobby Gaston frequently.

``Of course, they don't think there's any bias,'' Johnson said. ``I don't know if it's intentional or not, but they also make technical errors. That's what we want to get corrected most of the time. We work with Bobby and try to point them out.

``Hey, football is a tough sport to referee, to officiate. You're going to make some mistakes and miss some, but if there's a pattern over a few years that I've noticed, I think it has to be addressed.''

Johnson hopes to get a level playing field in officiating when Vanderbilt (4-6) ends its regular season Saturday at Tennessee (4-5).

Tennessee is playing to keep alive its 16-year bowl streak. The Vols have lost just twice to Vandy since 1966.

Vanderbilt is playing to snap a 22-game losing streak to Tennessee. Vandy has come close before. The Commodores trailed 28-6 last year but a rally fell short, 38-33. They lost 28-26 in 2000. They lost 17-10 in 1997, 14-7 in 1996 and 12-7 in 1995.

Tennessee is favored by 13 points, but the Vols haven't come close to covering the spread in the past three games.

For the Vols to win, they must contain Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, contain freshmen receiver Earl Bennett and play with emotion.

Cutler is the SEC's best quarterback and likely will be the second quarterback picked in the upcoming NFL draft. Cutler leads the SEC with 2,758 passing yards. He has 18 touchdown passes against 9 interceptions. He's also an effective scrambler and can run the option, as evidenced by his 1,265 career rushing yards.

His favorite target is Bennett, a Birmingham native who was recruited by Notre Dame. Bennett caught an SEC record-tying five touchdown passes against Kentucky and had 16 catches for 204 yards against South Carolina. He's got eight TD catches in the last three games, matching the number of scoring passes UT has thrown this season. Bennett has 65 catches this season.

``We could not have foreseen this,'' said Johnson, who had Bennett in camp two summers ago. ``But we knew what kind of athlete he was.''

Vanderbilt considered redshirting Bennett.

``He's been a pleasant surprise,'' Johnson said. ``He knows how to play football. You get him the ball, he turns around and makes people miss or goes up high and catches it or seems to have that extra gear when he's got to go past somebody. He's one of those naturals that comes around just so often.''

Tennessee must also play with emotion. The Vols came out flat against Memphis. If they get behind Vanderbilt 13-0, UT might not be able to mount a comeback.

Vanderbilt figures to score some points. The Commodores got 35 in regulation against Florida and 43 against Kentucky.

Can Tennessee outscore the Commodores?

That's debatable. UT is averaging 17.1 points per game. That ranks 107 in the nation. The Vols have scored only 16 offensive touchdowns, two on drives of 2 yards or less. The average length of a touchdown is 7.9 yards. The longest rushing touchdown is 3 yards. UT is 100 in the nation in total offense and 98 in rushing offense.

One of the few offensive bright spots has been redshirt freshman Arian Foster, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in three consecutive games. Under Fulmer, only Jamal Lewis has been a more productive freshman runner.

``I'm not surprised the way he's running the ball,'' said UT running backs coach Trooper Taylor. `` There's never been a question of his talent since the day he walked on campus. He's exactly what (assistant) Randy (Sanders) thought he was when he went out there (to California) and saw the kid.''

Taylor likes the way Foster runs with vision.

``I've heard comments, he's not getting up in the hole,'' Taylor said. ``Well, if there's not a hole there, he's entitled to get outside. We teach them to run with their eyes. You run with your feet naturally. I was disappointed in maybe two cuts he made in the whole (Memphis) game.

``Running with your eyes, that's a skill you're born with. It's not something you're taught.''


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