Boos can be a good sign

There's no greater thrill for a quarterback than to throw a touchdown pass, then trot to the sidelines as 100,000 fans shower him with cheers. Sometimes, though, a smattering of boos can be just as significant.

That's the belief of Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe. He's convinced that the best thing a quarterback can do in some situations is simply to throw the ball away, even though it may bring a few Bronx cheers from the paying customers.

Consider the Vols' first full-scale scrimmage: No. 1 quarterback Erik Ainge threw two interceptions and had a third one dropped. Two of those three throws never should've been attempted. He should've thrown the ball away.

Ainge was much more careful in scrimmage No. 2 and threw zero interceptions. He was sacked four times, however, and a couple of those could've been averted if he had sensed the pressure and thrown the ball away.

Bottom line: Throwing the ball away can prevent losing possession (via interceptions) and losing yardage (via sacks), even though it may bring a chorus of boos from the stands. Cutcliffe says Ainge and backup Jonathan Crompton (who was sacked three times) made a few timely throwaways last Saturday night but not enough.

"Both of them threw some balls away but that's a good thing," Cutcliffe said. "We're not going to hold the ball and make mistakes. That's poise, too. Sometimes you have to be willing to be booed to do the right thing. People don't believe that but it's true."

The coordinator thought Ainge's performance in Scrimmage No. 2 was much better than his performance a week earlier.

"I thought the focus was better downfield," Cutcliffe said. "He knew what was going on. He looked much more comfortable in the pocket. His pocket movement and reactions were better. He made a couple of plays after moving in the pocket, which he hadn't done before."

Phillip Fulmer saw some progress from the No. 1 QB, as well.

"I think he played all right," the head man said. "There were two or three sacks we probably shouldn't have taken. But he did make some athletic plays and some fine throws. And he handled the offense, getting in and out of the huddle and those things, pretty well."

All things considered, the Vol passing game was much more effective in scrimmage No. 2 than it had been in scrimmage No. 1.

"It was," Fulmer conceded. "We didn't protect or throw it very well (in the first scrimmage) but we worked really hard on that, and it obviously was better."

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