Quick-striking Vols

Tennessee's first touchdown drive of 2006 was a methodical 10-play, 65-yard march that lasted 4 minutes and 33 seconds. Thereafter, the Vols resembled the quick-striking "Minute Men" of Revolutionary War fame. Their four remaining TD drives averaged just 57.5 seconds.

Tennessee's second scoring drive in Saturday evening's 35-18 defeat of California covered 56 yards in five plays and lasted just 1:49. The payoff was a 42-yard pass from Erik Ainge to Robert Meachem.

The third scoring drive covered 80 yards in two plays and lasted 32 seconds. The capper was an 80-yard toss from Ainge to Meachem.

Scoring drive No. 4 covered 72 yards in three plays and lasted 1 minute and 3 seconds. This one ended when Ainge hit Jayson Swain with a 50-yard strike.

Scoring drive No. 5 covered 43 yards in one play and lasted 26 seconds. That's how long it took for No. 2 tailback Montario Hardesty to break a bunch of tackles at the line of scrimmage and ramble to the end zone.

Asked about the barrage of big plays, head coach Phillip Fulmer replied: "I was glad to get ‘em. I hope we can continue on that path. I thought David (offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe) called a great game. We ran the ball well enough to make them (Golden Bears) respect it, then we got them in some coverage situations they didn't really handle very well."

After needing an overtime to score a season-high 30 points in last year's game at LSU, the Vols surpassed that total with 35 points in the first three quarters of their 2006 opener.

"We made some things happen on offense," Fulmer said. "I think David Cutcliffe has energized our offensive football team, and I'm proud of that."

The big difference on offense was the passing game. The Vols actually had one, as opposed to a year ago. With Ainge doing most of the damage, Tennessee quarterbacks threw for 298 yards, a number topped just once in 2005 (with a 310-yard passing effort vs. Georgia).

The big play, virtually absent from Tennessee's offensive arsenal last fall, returned with a vengeance Saturday. In addition to his 80-yard, 50-yard and 42-yard scoring passes, Ainge completed a 41-yard non-scoring pass to Meachem on the Vols' first scrimmage play and a beautiful 19-yard strike to tight end Chris Brown. In addition to Hardesty's 43-yard TD run, LaMarcus Coker had a 22-yard burst and Arian Foster popped a 20-yard gainer.

"It was great to see our receivers and running backs making plays," Fulmer said. "I think we have some depth at running back, so that was really good to see."

Although encouraged by Tennessee's glut of spectacular plays, the head man was just as pleased with some less dramatic contributions he noted throughout the evening.

"There were some plays out there that are not going to make the ESPN (highlights) or the newspaper," Fulmer said. "But I saw a lot of unselfish plays … like guys giving it up so the quarterback could get outside and make the throw for a touchdown."


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