Flawed flingin'

TAMPA – David Cutcliffe wasn't a happy camper after No. 17 Tennessee fell 20-10 to unranked Penn State in the Outback Bowl. Tennessee's offensive coordinator saw too many flaws to suit his taste, especially at quarterback and in the run game.

``I don't think we laid the ball off as well as we should have,'' Cutcliffe said. ``And I don't like a quarterback taking sacks. I think there are ways out of it 95 percent of the time.''

Ainge took two sacks against Penn State. And, too often, he didn't take the sure underneath completion, instead forcing the ball downfield.

Still, Ainge finished 25 of 37 passing for 267 yards. He set a school record for completion percentage in a single season at over 66 percent, and he fell just 11 shy of 3,000 passing yards. He also went 137 passes between interceptions.

Yet, Cutcliffe wants to see a better Ainge in 2007.

``I want him stronger, more physical, more consistent,'' Cutcliffe said. ``I want the quarterbacks to be in the best shape of their lives in the spring. We need to focus on improving our body and feet first, then we'll start worrying about throwing the football come February.''

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said some players need to play within the system and not do things individually. Cutcliffe agreed.

``That's exactly right,'' Cutcliffe said. ``When we've got second-and-long – a bad down-and-distance – we're not doing that well enough. That's coaching. That's me not getting that point across.''

Cutcliffe was upset that a basic first-down zone play inside the tackles lost 6 yards against Penn State.

``Something's not right,'' Cutcliffe said.

Something wasn't right with UT's offense against the Nittany Lions. The Vols didn't play fast. They didn't play smart. And they ran just one play inside the PSU 27-yard line. It resulted in an Arian Foster fumble that Penn State returned for a decisive touchdown.

Penn State bracketed UT receiver Robert Meachem with a corner and a safety, limiting UT's single-season yardage record holder to four catches for 33 yards. Meachem had two drops.

The attention paid to Meachem helped Jayson Swain catch seven passes. Tight end Chris Brown caught seven more. But given the amount of time UT utilized a four- or five-wideout set, the Vols missed Bret Smith, who was academically ineligible. Smith entered the game as UT's No. 3 receiver with 39 catches. The No. 4 wide receiver, Lucas Taylor, had 13.

Fulmer said the Outback Bowl was a lesson learned.

``As I told our guys, we'll get back and start competing for championships,'' Fulmer said.


LaMarcus Coker, suspended from practice for about a week for undisclosed reasons, gave the Vols a first-half spark with a 42-yard touchdown run on a play in which Arian Foster or Montario Hardesty might have gained no more than a yard.

Coker bolted away from a linebacker in the hole, then sped down the left sideline for Tennessee's only touchdown. It was Coker's only carry in the first 30 minutes.

Coker started the second half, but had minus-6 yards on four runs as the Vols went more with Arian Foster.

Foster, who led the team with 65 yards on 12 carries, ripped off second-half runs of 12, 17 and 5 yards before his costly fumble with 10 minutes left in the game to help Penn State break a 10-10 tie en route to the school's eighth win in its last 10 games.

Fulmer said UT considered playing Coker more in the second half, but felt Foster had the hot hand.

``He made a difference in the ballgame,'' Fulmer said of Coker's 42-yard run. ``The draw play was huge. But Arian was running really, really well, too.

``On some of the protection things, LaMarcus is not quite as physical as he needs to be just yet.''

Cutcliffe was more blunt.

``He's got to be great in pass protection,'' Cutcliffe said of Coker. ``I'm proud that he's better, but he's got to be great at it. And a great receiver.''

On the other hand, Cutcliffe was impressed with Coker's scoring run.

``It shows you what speed can do,'' Cutcliffe said. ``I like speed. LaMarcus has proven time and time again he'll make plays.''


Six Vols will play in post-season all-star games. Tackle Arron Sears and cornerback Jonathan Wade will play in the Senior Bowl. Defensive tackle Turk McBride and receiver Jayson Swain have been invited to the East-West Shrine game in Houston, although McBride is holding out hope for the Senior Bowl. Marvin Mitchell has been invited to the Hula Bowl.

Kicker James Wilhoit said he had not yet been invited.


Despite the loss, Tennessee should not fall out of the Top 25.

Tennessee entered the Outback Bowl ranked No. 17. Two teams below the Vols – No. 21 Texas A&M and No. 22 Nebraska – lost bowl games. No. 24 Oregon State won its bowl over Missouri, but went 10-4, one win more than UT.

Look for the Vols to finish between No. 22 and 24 in the final AP poll.

UT president Dr. John Petersen said the university and athletic department combined to raise a record $300 million last year.

The previous record, set the year before, was $157 million.

UT raised just $80 million three years ago.

Regarding the potential for boosters donations for luxury suites and sky boxes not being tax exempt, Peterson said he would argue that those who pay more get better seats for symphonies and concerts. He also agreed that those donations help pay for other sports, including Title IX.

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