30 points each game

David Cutcliffe refuses to come off his projected number. Tennessee's offensive coordinator wants to score at least 30 points in each game. Not average 30 points – score at least 30 points. Considering it's never been done in Tennessee history, that is a rather ambitious goal.

Tennessee never did that with Peyton Manning or Heath Shuler at quarterback. The closest the Vols have come was in 1993 and 1995, scoring 30 points in all but three games.

I mentioned to Cutcliffe that if the Vols had scored 28 points in each game last season, Tennessee would have won nine or 10 games.

``Our goal is going to be 30 points in each game and I'm not going to change that,'' Cutcliffe said. ``We have no excuse not to score 30 points in each game. When that's the goal, it means you need to average over 30 points per game. That's what our expectations are. You try to figure out each week how to score 30.

``Look at the winning percentage through the history of coach (Phillip) Fulmer's tenure here when we score 30 points or more.''

Fulmer has lost twice when Tennessee has scored 30 points in regulation, both to Florida (1993, 1995). He's won 80.

How hard is it to score 30 in each game? Manning's teams never did it, unable to score 30 points in three games in 1995, five games in 1996 and four games in 1997.

The 1998 national championship team failed to reach 30 in six games; same for the 2001 team. The 1989 team that went 11-1 failed to get to 30 six times. The 1985 and 1969 SEC championship teams fell shy of 30 five times.

Folks, it's nearly impossible to do. But that's Cutcliffe's mission.

A more reasonable goal would be to score 30 points in six games and average 28. Do you really think the Vols can get to 30 against California, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, LSU or Arkansas?

``I believe with all my heart that if we average 30 points, that's enough cushion for our defense to win with,'' Cutcliffe said.

There's another number that is almost as important to Cutcliffe: Plays per possession. The 1998 team averaged 7.2, the best mark at UT in over 20 years.

``I'd love to average seven, but if we average five or six and minimize the three-and-outs, you've just made your defense better; you've just made your kicking game better,'' Cutcliffe said.

``If you're not turning it over and you're averaging seven plays per possession and changing field position, you'll win a lot of games. Look at the percentage of times a team scores when it starts (a drive) inside its 10 or 20. It's phenomenally different than when a team gets the ball around midfield going in.

``Sometimes it's not always pretty. Gene Stallings is one of those guys that I thought was the master at that. Alabama won the national championship (in 1992) and the average score may have been 17-10, 17-7 or 13-7. But they won every game they played.

``Some people might boo that, but if it wins games, I'll take the boos.''

Cutcliffe would like to average 400 total yards per game, but that could be tough. First of all, he wants to shorten the game to help UT's young defense. Secondly, the NCAA is shortening the game with time-clock changes, which could mean 10-15 fewer plays per game, which could be a considerable difference in yards gained.

Last season, Tennessee finished no higher than 80th in the four major offensive categories: scoring, total yards, rushing yards, passing yards.

Georgia, which won the SEC, finished no higher than 42nd in any of those areas. But the Bulldogs were in the top three in the SEC in each. And that's what's important to Cutcliffe.

``I'm aware of the national stats,'' he said. ``All of us are. But when I study us in the offseason, I separate everything. I figure out what we did in all the SEC games.''

When you do that, you'll find it's not easy to average 30 points, much less score 30 in each game.

``Look at the (NFL) draft,'' Cutcliffe said. ``There are so many defensive players that come out of this league. Guys have figured out that's how you win championships in the SEC. You put your best people on defense.''

Cutcliffe said you'll have a good offense if you finish in the top five in the SEC in each major offensive area.


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