UT could learn from Auburn

Tennessee faces four imposing road games this fall – Cal, Florida, Alabama and Kentucky – so head coach Phil Fulmer might want to invest in a phone call to Auburn's Tommy Tuberville.

Although the Vols have been a good road team in recent years, Tuberville's Tigers are an amazing 11-1 in SEC road games over the past three seasons. Moreover, the loss came in overtime at LSU in 2005 on a day when Auburn's kicker missed five field-goal attempts.

"I think the biggest thing you do as a coach in our league is to try to teach your players how to win on the road," Tuberville said recently. "You just can't say, 'OK, we're underdogs. We're not supposed to win when we go on the road.'"

The coach added that his goal each week is for his players to be oblivious to a game's venue. He wants the Tigers to play each game as if it's at a neutral site.

"We challenge our players at the beginning of the season that no matter where you're playing or how you're playing, you've got to play the same," he said. "You've got to play in a different atmosphere each week but you've got to feel like it's no different.... You've got to play hard as a group."

Part 2 of Tuberville's recipe for road success is teamwork. The last thing he wants is a quarterback or a running back thinking he must carry the team.

"One guy's not going to win for you," Tuberville said. "You've got to get them all playing the same way, the same direction."

Part 3 of his road recipe is quite interesting. Whereas most coaches become more conservative when playing on the road, he becomes more daring. If the opponent has momentum, he may dust off a trick play to try and turn the tide.

"We coach to win on the road," Tuberville said. "We go in and sometimes we take chances. We roll the dice. Our players, I think, like that. We try to change the momentum on the road.... Momentum is the biggest factor on the road ... because if you lose it long enough you're surely going to lose the game."

Part 4 of Tuberville's road plan involves his veteran players. Their leadership skills are even more important in hostile arenas than in home games.

"Your older guys have to be good salesmen to your younger guys in the dressing room (by saying), 'Hey, we can win this game on the road. You've just got to play to another level,'" Tuberville noted. "It's a challenge but it's fun."

It's fun when you have an 11-1 road record, for sure.

As noted previously, Auburn's only SEC road loss over the past three seasons occurred at Baton Rouge in 2005. Tuberville's troops make a return visit to LSU Oct. 20. They also play SEC road games at Florida (Sept. 29), at Arkansas (Oct. 13) and at Georgia (Nov. 10). Those four teams were a combined 43-11 last fall.

Clearly, Tuberville's formula faces quite a road test this fall.


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