Offense shows life in scrimmage

The expression on the face of Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe following Saturday night's second full-scale scrimmage of the preseason wasn't ecstasy. It was relief ... but that was close enough.

Seven days after appearing comatose in a mistake-filled first scrimmage, Cutcliffe's attack unit sprang to life in dress rehearsal No. 2. The top three quarterbacks combined to complete 31 of 48 passes without throwing an interception.

Moreover, there were some big gainers, including pass completions of 37, 30, 37, 39, 65 and 24 yards.

Asked to identify the biggest positive of the night, Cutcliffe replied: "Just making some plays downfield. That's something we needed to do. And seeing the backs run the football. When we gave them some blocks, the backs ran well. We got some push, particularly when Arron Sears, David Ligon and that group (first-team line) was all in there."

No. 1 tailback Arian Foster, clearly a marked man, carried three times for minus-8 yards, losing yardage on each of his rushes.

Redshirt freshman Montario Hardesty, seeing his first game-type action since he tore an ACL last Oct. 1 against Ole Miss, ripped off a nine-yard run on his initial carry. He finished with eight rushes for 21 yards and also scored on a two-point conversion run.

LaMarcus Coker, another redshirt freshman, carried six times for 28 yards, including a 21-yard burst and a four-yard TD run. Sophomore Ja'Kouri Williams had five carries for 23 yards, including a 14-yard ramble. Senior David Yancey carried four times for 15 yards, with a long of 7.

After throwing two interceptions (and having another dropped) last Saturday, No. 1 quarterback Erik Ainge bounced back with a mistake-free effort on this night. By my count, he was 16 of 26 passing for 190 yards with a 24-yard TD toss to Robert Meachem.

No. 2 QB Jonathan Crompton had another good scrimmage. My stats showed him completing 8 of 12 attempts for 87 yards. He also had a nifty 10-yard scramble.

No. 3 quarterback Bo Hardegree turned in another imposing performance statistically, connecting on 8 of 9 throws for 118 yards and touchdowns of 5 yards (to walk-on Andrew Koszela) and 65 yards (to Lucas Taylor).

Asked how far the offense came from last Saturday's scrimmage to this one, Cutcliffe smiled.

"A great deal," he said. "That's what you want to see. We were a long way away after last Saturday. We're still not there but we're definitely a lot closer than we were."

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