Meachem feasts on Cal

Three bits of unsolicited advice to future Tennessee foes: 1. Do NOT talk about Robert Meachem's momma. 2. Do NOT step on his dancing shoes. 3. Do NOT antagonize him by talking a bunch pre-game smack.

The California Golden Bears learned lesson No. 3 the hard way Saturday evening at Neyland Stadium. Cal cornerback Daymeion Hughes made some pre-game comments that riled Meachem, who responded with five catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns as the No. 23 Vols routed the No. 9 Golden Bears 35-18.

Although both TD grabs came at the expense of freshman corner Syd'Quan Thompson, Meachem credited his big day to Hughes' big mouth.

"The receivers had a chip on our shoulder because Number 13 (Hughes) had a lot to say in a lot of press conferences," Meachem said. "For us, it was like somebody talking ‘bout your momma or somebody stepping on your shoe at the club.

"We (receivers) had a chip on our shoulder and we wanted to go out today and show the world ‘We're back.' "

Robert Meachem's first TD came late in the second quarter. With Tennessee leading 7-0, he ran a quick hitch, outbattled Thompson to snare Erik Ainge's short pass, then rambled 42 yards to paydirt, boosting the Vol lead to 14-0 with 3:07 left to halftime.

On Tennessee's second play of the second half, Meachem was at it again. He caught another quick hitch near the East sideline, broke a tackle attempt by Thompson and set sail on an 80-yard touchdown play.

Senior wideout Jayson Swain got in on the fun moments later, popping free on a post route and gathering in a 50-yard strike from Ainge as the lead swelled to 28-0.

Saturday provided redemption for Meachem, Swain and the other members of UT's much-maligned receiver corps. The wideouts played this game as if they had the strength and stamina of Superman.

"When you've got Trooper Taylor as your (position) coach, with all that energy, how can you get tired?" Meachem said. "With all that hard work we did in June, July and August, today was the day to have fun."

No one had more fun than Ainge, another much-maligned Vol. The junior quarterback finished 11 of 17 for 291 yards and four touchdowns, including a 12-yard first-quarter strike to tight end Chris Brown.

"Erik played a heck of a game tonight," Meachem said. "He (played as if he) went back to high school. He calmed down and had a great time."

No. 2 tailback Montario Hardesty got Tennessee's only rushing TD of the evening, breaking four tackles near the line of scrimmage, then rambling 43 yards for a score that widened the gap to 35-0 with 8:31 to go in the third period.

Cal booted a field goal in the third quarter and added a couple of meaningless touchdowns in the fourth to give the appearance that the game was halfway competitive. It wasn't. The Vols literally dominated from start to finish. They made a statement on their very first offensive snap – a 41-yard completion from Ainge to Meachem. David Cutcliffe's first call since returning as offensive coordinator was an unqualified success.

"That showed that Coach Cutcliffe has confidence in me," Ainge said. "Not just me, but the offensive line and the receivers. He knew their defensive line on the first play was going to come out with their ears pinned back."

All told, Tennessee piled up 514 yards of total offense – 102 more than last year's season-best of 412 yards in Game 1 vs. UAB.

"Coach Cutcliffe is an offensive guru," Meachem said. "He brings a lot to the table. When you've got a guy like that, and everybody's behind him, we all perform."

Counting backup QB Jonathan Crompton's numbers – 2 of 3 for 7 yards – Tennessee's passers were 13 of 20 for 298 yards and four TDs vs. Cal. The ground game added 216 yards on 41 carries. Arian Foster rushed 17 times for 69 yards. Hardesty ran five times for 56 and LaMarcus Coker 11 times for 53 yards.

Cal's offense did very little until the fourth quarter, when it tacked on two TDs and a bunch of yards after the outcome was already settled.

Golden Bear quarterbacks Nate Longshore (11 of 20, 85 yards) and Joe Ayoob (9 of 22, 187 yards) combined to complete just 20 of 42 passes with an interception each.

Because Cal fell so far behind so quickly, superstar tailback Marshawn Lynch carried just 12 times for 74 yards. Backup Justin Forsett was limited to one yard on five rushes.

Tennessee hosts Air Force this Saturday. Game time is 7 p.m.

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