Vols 'pass' on ground game

Phillip Fulmer says Tennessee's offense is still searching for an identity, but the Vols appeared to find one in the second half of Saturday's game with Rutgers.

After two quarters spent trying to force the run produced 63 yards of total
offense and a 14-7 halftime deficit, Tennessee threw five consecutive passes
to open the third quarter, matching its pass attempt total for the entire
first half. The Vols wound up gaining 315 yards in the second half, with 258
of those coming via the airways.

So much for balanced offense, huh?

Disdaining the argument that ''we have to run the ball so everybody's not on
the offensive line about run productivity,'' offensive tackle Will
Ofenheusle added: ''If we have to throw the ball 100 times a game to win,
hey, I don't care. We have great team speed, and we're going to be faster
than a lot of people we play. We have to take advantage of our speed.''

Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders noted that, ''It's nice if you can line
up and run it because then it doesn't matter if it's raining, it's snowing,
the wind's blowing 50 miles an hour or your quarterback gets hurt.'' Still,
he conceded that ''I don't care how we move the ball as long as we score
points.''

The gameplan was to run the ball down Rutgers' throat.

''Coach Fulmer pretty much said he wanted to come out and come downhill at
'em, run the football some,'' Sanders said. ''That's what we started out the
game trying to do.''

When the ground-hugging approach failed miserably, the switch to a
pass-oriented attack was a no-brainer.

''Basically, the run game hadn't done anything other than the first drive,''
Sanders said. ''I pretty much decided (at halftime) that we were going to
spread it out and throw it, then take the run when it was there.''

Head coach Phillip Fulmer isn't ready to admit that the Vols must pass the
ball to win, however, even though the ground attack has mustered less than
100 yards two weeks in succession.

''We've still got to work on being able to run the football,'' he said.
''Rutgers came in here determined to stop the run and, for the most part,
they did a decent job. When you've got nine guys being blocked by seven,
that's not a good matchup.''

Tennessee rushed 23 times for 94 yards, an average of 4.1 yards per carry.
Jabari Davis got 32 yards on Tennessee's first two rushing attempts.
Thereafter, the Vols managed just 62 yards on 21 rushes, less than 3.0 per
carry.

The Vols' leading rusher this season, Cedric Houston, carried just four
times for eight yards. When asked if Houston was hampered by the thigh
bruise he suffered a week earlier against Florida, Fulmer replied,
''Cedric's fine. He was in the game a lot when we were throwing the
football.''

Throwing the ball opened up the run on this night. After completing five
consecutive passes to open the second half, Tennessee gave the ball to Troy
Fleming, who burst 16 yards up the middle to score.

Davis carred eight times for 40 yards, Fleming four for 39 and Derrick
Tinsley three for 11. Noticeable in his absence was Gerald Riggs, Jr., the
Vols' highly touted freshman tailback.

''He's getting better,'' Fulmer said, ''but he has to get a lot better in
his (pass) protections.''


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