Running game ready to emerge

After seeing the way Miami ran roughshod over Florida's run defense two weeks ago, Tennessee's offensive linemen are understandably eager to face the Gators Saturday at Neyland Stadium. They think the Big Orange ground game is due a breakout performance.

''We go into every game wanting to run the ball,'' offensive tackle Michael
Munoz said. ''Being an offensive lineman, I'd want to run it every play. I
really think we can have some success running the football ... AND passing
it. If we execute and do the things that we plan to do, I think we're going
to be successful.''

The Vols were only mildly successful in Game 2 against Middle Tennessee
State but that was more the result of fumbles and penalties than ineffective
blocking.

''In the MTSU game, the only thing that stopped us was ourselves ... with
the penalties and mistakes,'' Munoz said. ''If we eliminate those, I think
we're going to have good things happen.''

The Vol attack has been fairly productive to date. Tennessee is averaging
433.5 yards of total offense and 36.5 points per game but nine of the points
(one touchdown and one safety) were registered by the Vol defense.
Quarterback Casey Clausen is completing 74.2 percent of his passes and
tailback Cedric Houston is averaging 7.8 yards per carry.

On the down side, Tennessee has just five touchdowns to show for 10 trips
inside the ''Orange Area.'' Considering the mediocre level of the
opposition, that's disappointing.

On the plus side, Tennessee has been remarkably balanced.

''I think for the year we've had 73 runs and 71 passes, so that's about as
balanced as you can be,'' head coach Phillip Fulmer said.

Not in terms of production, however. The passing game has accounted for 542
yards, while the run game has produced a mere 325. UT's average of 162.5
rushing yards per game ranks ninth among the 12 SEC schools.

''There's always room for improvement,'' Munoz said. ''We're very close to
having some big rushing games. It's just a little assignment here or there.
The thing we are doing well is coming off the ball, playing hard. It's just
a couple of mental things and penalties that are keeping us from having some
big rushing games.''

Fulmer isn't concerned by the rushing statistics, either.

''The one stat you worry about is if you win enough games,'' he said.
''That's the only one I care about.''


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