Cut's no fan of new clock rule

Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe lamented the small number of snaps and series the Vols had against Marshall. You can tell he's not a fan of the new clock rules aimed at reducing the length of a college football game. That just adds to the pressure of producing.

Against Marshall, the Vols had 10 possessions and ran 51 plays, an average of 5.1 plays per drive. Cutcliffe wants that number at more than six. The Vols had three possessions of more than seven plays against Marshall, but, ironically, scored just seven points. The other two drives ended with a punt and missed field goal.

Against Florida, UT had 56 plays on 10 possessions. Oddly, the two longest drives – 12 and 10 plays -- resulted in just three points.

Against California, UT had 12 possessions and 61 plays. One problem: UT scored a touchdown on three of the first six snaps of the second half.

Against Air Force, UT had six possessions (not counting running out the clock at the end of the game) for 59 plays, an average of 9.8 plays per march.

Tennessee has averaged fewer than 10 possessions per game, compared to 13 a year ago. That is not lost on Cutcliffe.

``Every mistake you make is magnified,'' Cutcliffe said. ``If you throw an interception or miss a field goal or a scoring opportunity or don't produce on a third down, it's real interesting.''

And real frustrating.

``You have to find a rhythm and you've got to be good,'' Cutcliffe said.

Or you might not see the ball often. In the third quarter against Marshall, UT ran five plays. That's right – five.

``We're not doing a good job of possessing the football,'' Cutcliffe said. ``When you have 51 plays, all of them are big. You can't afford to make mistakes. I don't want to ever say any, but you can't make many.''

In two consecutive games, Tennessee has had the ball for less than 26 minutes in time of possession. Is time of possession or number of plays a bigger concern for Cutcliffe?

``They go hand in hand,'' Cutcliffe said. ``What I'm concerned with first is number of plays per possession. That becomes, ultimately, more important than time of possession because it changes field position. If we average six or seven plays per possession, we'll get points out of doing that.''


Tennessee has been scoring touchdowns at a much more frequent rate than a year ago.

Through four games, the Vols' first-team offense has scored 14 touchdowns on 34 possessions. Last year, the Vols' 14th offensive touchdown came on the 106th drive.

This year, UT's first-team offense scored five touchdowns on nine possessions against Cal, four on six against Air Force, two on 10 against Florida and three on nine against Marshall.

Counting field goals, UT starters have scored a touchdown on 18 of 34 possessions. Counting the second team, the Vols have reached the end zone on 19 of 39 possessions. UT has already scored 15 touchdowns, compared to 19 offensive touchdowns a year ago in 11 games.

As you might expect, the Vols' scoring average is way up. UT has gone from 18.6 points per game last year to 29.8 points per game this season.


ESPN commentator Mark May said he thinks the Vols will go 10-2 this season, likely losing to LSU but winning at Georgia.

``I think Tennessee will go 10-2 at worst, if everybody stays healthy,'' May told the Knoxville Quarterback Club on Monday. ``I'm really impressed with (LaMarcus) Coker as a running back. They've found their guy.''

May proudly said he was the only national sportscaster to pick UT to beat Cal. He said he wasn't surprised Tennessee routed Cal and LSU routed Arizona, because he thinks the SEC is much better than the Pac-10.

``They don't know what it's like in the SEC,'' May said of what he referred to as the ``wine and cheese'' league. ``They're not used to 100,000 passionate fans.''

May said the best thing Tennessee did since last season was hire David Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator. May said he would give quarterback Erik Ainge an A this year after giving him a D last year.

May also said Vol fans should embrace defensive tackle Justin Harrell because Harrell played against Florida despite a ruptured bicep in his left arm.

``What he did was heroic,'' May said. ``You guys should be talking about him for the next generation. That man is special. You guys should take care of him.''

May said the only SEC coach on the hot seat is Ole Miss' Ed Orgeron, although he's been on the job just two years.

May played in three Super Bowls and won two Super Bowl rings. He made All-Pro. He was an All-American at Pitt. The toughest player he ever faced: Former Tennessee Vol Reggie White.

``He was a fierce player,'' May said. ``Lawrence Taylor was very good, but Reggie White is probably the best player I played against in college and the NFL.''

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