Hugs help UT rally

Before Tennessee embarked on its traditional Vol Walk on Saturday, coach Phillip Fulmer did something very untraditional.

He told his players to hug each other. That's right, hug each other.

``I thought the players were uptight,'' Fulmer said. ``I asked them to stand up and go hug everybody in the room. It broke the ice and we came out ready to play.''

With the Tennessee team still smarting from a 39-point loss at Florida the week before and many fans jumping ship, the Vols needed all the support they could muster – even if it came from within.

Tennessee then delivered a 48-27 victory over Arkansas State before about 90,000 at Neyland Stadium.

Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe appreciated Fulmer's pre-game move.

``I'd never seen it, but I was glad he did it,'' Cutcliffe said. ``I was sitting in the back of the room not feeling too good myself until then. I was shaking a little bit. You know how you always have butterflies. Mine were beyond butterflies. I wasn't feeling good.''

Cutcliffe felt better after he made the rounds in the room.

``One of the great things about athletics is the bond that is developed,'' Cutcliffe said. ``You felt that bond occur in that room at that moment.''

The Vols didn't exactly play like the New England Patriots, but they did play well enough to gain some self-respect. They chalked up 522 yards – 188 rushing – against a team that held Texas to 340. Erik Ainge pierced the Indians' secondary for 334 yards and four touchdowns on 27 of 39 passing. LaMarcus Coker rambled for 101 yards, proving, for the second year in a row, he's a better back than Arian Foster.

``He's fast, tough, has great speed and he's a dynamic football player,'' Fulmer said of Coker. ``After missing three weeks (in August after being suspended) he's about worked himself into football shape.''

Lucas Taylor continues to emerge at receiver. He was a playmaker against Arkansas State, with seven catches for 104 yards – his third 100-yard game of the season – and two touchdowns.

``The famous story of him rushing for 500 yards in a high school game, you saw that tonight,'' Cutcliffe said of Taylor. ``I was happy for Lucas. He'll make some more plays. He's a good football player.''

The offensive line blew ASU off the line on several occasions and continued to do a terrific job in pass protection, not allowing a sack. The line hasn't been responsible for a sack all season.

Not all went well against ASU.

UT's defense continued to struggle, Jonathan Hefney lost 17 yards on four punt returns, and the kick coverage was sporadic. Hefney will lose his job if he doesn't stop wiggling on runbacks, Fulmer said.

Arkansas State, which gained 397 yards against Texas, got 377 against Tennessee, 178 on the ground. Powerful Reggie Arnold had 130 yards, including runs of 44, 18, 30, 14 and 12 yards as the Vols surrendered 244 yards on 10 plays. Florida gained 297 yards on 11 plays.

Tennessee is still too vulnerable to big gains but at least the Vols kept the damage to a minimum.

Make no mistake, this wasn't an easy game for UT. They heard all week how sorry they were, how embarrassing the loss at Florida was. They heard from fans, from the media, from former players.

``I've been telling them they were not that bad,'' Fulmer said, trying to massage the collective egos of his troops.

``We played two darn good football teams on the road. We didn't play well in either game. If we'd played well, they're much closer games or we win.''

Maybe UT beats at Cal. But not at Florida.

And that Florida game haunted defensive tackle Demonte Bolden the entire week.

``No matter how hard you try to put the past in the past,'' Bolden said, ``Tennessee ain't never lost like that to Florida.

``I'm sorry, I'm the kind of player who hates losing. I didn't come to Tennessee to lose. … Coach said to play hard and give it your best because I was focused on the past.''

To a certain extent, so was Cutcliffe.

When told Bolden still had a bad taste in his mouth about the Florida game, Cutcliffe said: ``I think it's still in my mouth, to be real honest with you. I haven't been exceptionally happy all week long. You put it behind you because you've got a job to do. You're not dwelling on it.

``But I don't think we need to forget it. I think we need to understand the impact those type things have.''

It had a negative impact on many UT fans for the entire week.

One of the smallest crowds in years gathered for the Vol Walk 2 hours, 15 minutes before kickoff.

Nonetheless, Fulmer took time to show his appreciation for those that lined the streets.

``I want to say a special thank you to the fans,'' Fulmer said. ``They were incredible on the Vol Walk. They were very encouraging to our players.''

They will be more encouraging for the Georgia game – a game the Vols must win to get this season headed in the right direction.


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