Many passes = few wins

The fact Tennessee threw 46 passes in Saturday's 16-13 defeat of Alabama represents something of an anomaly. Histically speaking, the more the Vols put the ball in the air, the more likely they are to lose.

Eighteen times in program history UT has attempted 44 or more passes in a single game. The Vols' record in those games is 6-11-1.

Here's a recap:

Peyton Manning launched 65 passes against Florida in 1996 and lost 35-29.

Andy Kelly threw 60 times against Notre Dame in 1990 and lost 34-29.

A.J. Suggs passed 59 times vs. LSU in 2000 and lost 38-31 in overtime.

Kelly threw 56 times vs. Florida and 55 times vs. Colorado in 1991, coming away with a 35-18 loss in the former and a 31-31 tie in the latter.

Casey Clausen unloaded 55 times vs. Clemson in the 2004 Peach Bowl and lost 27-14.

Manning threw 53 times vs. Southern Miss and 51 times vs. Florida in '97, winning the first 44-20 but losing the second 33-20.

Erik Ainge and Rick Clausen combined for 51 passes in 2005 vs. LSU as Tennessee prevailed 30-27 in overtime.

Manning threw 49 times vs. UCLA in 1997 and won 30-24.

Casey Clausen threw 47 times vs. Auburn in 2003 and lost 28-21.

Manning unloaded 46 times vs. Arkansas in 1995 and won 49-31.

Erik Ainge threw 46 times Saturday vs. Bama and won 16-13.

Bubba Wyche passed 45 times vs. Auburn in 1968 and lost 28-14.

Jeff Francis went to the air 44 times vs. Alabama in 1987 and lost 41-22.

Manning threw 44 times vs. Ole Miss in 1997 and won 31-17.

Tee Martin passed 44 times vs. Arkansas in 1999 and lost 28-24.

Casey Clausen unloaded 44 passes vs. Florida in 2002 and lost 30-13.

I once asked former Vol offensive coordinator Randy Sanders why so many passes have produced so few wins for Tennessee. He said the Vols are so intent on balance that they generally throw a lot only when forced into catch-up mode, and teams rarely win when they have to overcome a large deficit.

The Vols were not in catch-up mode Saturday vs. Alabama, however. They simply chose to throw the ball 46 times and hand it to running backs just 18 times. Given Tennessee's penchant for balance, you have to wonder why.

"I think all of us offensively would like to have more balance than we had in that ball game," head coach Phillip Fulmer says. "But we felt if they (Tide) were going to commit that much to stopping the run game that we had the skill level to beat them."

Airing it out produced just 16 points but Fulmer says that number is deceiving. The Vols' first seven forays into Bama territory produced just six points, thanks to three interceptions, a missed field goal and a failed fourth-and-one try.

"If we don't screw it up in close, we had a chance to score 30 to 35 points," Fulmer notes.

Basically, Tennessee's passing game was not nearly as sharp as it was in the previous six games. Ainge and his receivers seemed slightly out of sync much of the evening.

"We did a good job protecting," Fulmer says, "but we didn't do as good a job throwing and catching as we had been."

Although he admittedly loves to "pound the rock," the Vol head man adamantly disputes the idea that he is a run-oriented coach who throws more by necessity than by design.

"We're not into the numbers of who does what," he says. "We're just trying to win the football game."

Still, Fulmer admits that "We would like to be balanced. We're going to look at ways to run the ball more consistently. We've got to call more runs, even with eight-man fronts, to find some balance."


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