Vols win one for Fulmer, Chavis

Phillip Fulmer got a Gatorade bath after Tennessee defeated Georgia on Saturday. So did John Chavis.

Why would Vol players do that?

You beat Georgia last year. You've beaten Georgia three times in four games.

Why shower your head coach and defensive coordinator?

Why not act like you've been there before?

Actually, the Vols haven't been there before.

Tennessee players have never before felt like they were fighting for their head coach's job. Players have never felt they needed to defend Chavis.

Tennessee had lost 59-20 to Florida and the wolves were after Fulmer.

Tennessee had given up 150 points – a school-record after four games – and the wolves were after Chavis.

A survey in a Knoxville paper showed Fulmer had a disapproval rating of 71 percent among fans.

I don't know how much heat Fulmer felt. I don't know if he knew how much fan unrest surrounded him and his program. Certainly, he knew some of it. But I'm not sure he grasped the discontent in the Vol Nation.

The players certainly did.

That's why Fulmer and Chavis got Gatorade baths.

Vol players were tired of the attacks on their coaches.

So were many fans. When the Vols staged the traditional Vol Walk from the football complex to Neyland Stadium before the Arkansas State game Sept. 22, a smaller-than-usual number of fans lined the streets. For the Georgia game, it was jam packed.

That show of support from fans carried on throughout the game. Of course, the Vols gave their fans something to cheer about, scoring early and often while the defense pitched a first-half shutout, allowing just two first downs.

Fulmer and several players said the negative comments motivated the team.

Chavis disagreed.

``I don't think any negativity motivated the football team,'' Chavis said. ``Have you ever seen negativity motivated somebody?''

Answer: Yes. I saw it Saturday afternoon in Neyland Stadium.

UT offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said he saw a team enjoying itself.

``We had fun,'' Cutcliffe said. ``Football is a fun game. They (players) don't need to be looking over their shoulder or anything else. It's a physical, aggressive, fun game and you ask every one of them and I bet you they'll tell you they had fun. That was good to see. They deserved that.''


After being too cute too often on short-yardage plays the majority of this season, UT went back to playing Tennessee football against Georgia.

The Vols converted with ease all four third-and-2 or less plays and one fourth-and-1. They lined up in the I-formation and ran right at Georgia, rather than go to a shotgun, empty backfield or trick play.

``We had a good bead on what we expected,'' offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said. ``We challenged their pride and they took it to heart. Our offensive line was absolutely on fire.''

The fourth-and-1 call was significant. UT was at the Georgia 40-yard-line with six minutes left in the third quarter. The Bulldogs had gained some momentum with a touchdown to cut the deficit to 28-7. If UT fails, Georgia gains great field position.

Was there debate among the coaching staff?

``Coach Fulmer said go for it, so there's no debate,'' Cutcliffe said. ``I thought it was a great call on his part. To be aggressive in those games, it pays off.''

Arian Foster powered for 5 yards and a first down, sparking a touchdown drive to give UT a 35-7 cushion and put the game out of reach.

``That was the best drive of the game for us,'' Cutcliffe said of the seven play, 74-yard march. ``We'd lost a little edge. I thought the execution was outstanding during that drive.''

Cutcliffe was also proud of a non-scoring drive in the fourth quarter that consumed 4 ½ minutes.

``I don't remember us making that drive a year ago,'' Cutcliffe said. ``That's a big indicator things are headed in the right direction.''

But there is more work to be done.

``We've built on something,'' Cutcliffe said. ``Now we've got to not maintain it, because nothing is maintained. We've got to go beyond this. We've got to keep improving. That's got to be the theme of this team.''


Cutcliffe said the reverse 56-yard touchdown pass from Lucas Taylor to LaMarcus Coker was the same one he called that scored against Florida last year.

``It got everybody excited on the sideline when I called it,'' Cutcliffe said.

``We'll wait again and try to pick the opportune time (to run it). We've got pretty good statistics on that play. People will say, `Why don't you run it more?'''


Erik Ainge is in elite company. UT's senior quarterback is 3-0 against Georgia. The only other UT quarterback to win three games against Georgia was Peyton Manning, who also was 3-0.

Ainge's 17 of 22 accuracy not only pushed his season completion percentage to .677, he has now gone 182 consecutive passes without being sacked.

It was, by 17, the fewest number of passes he had thrown in a game this season. He had been averaging 41 passes.

``I thought he was tremendous and unselfish,'' Cutcliffe said. ``It was a little different game than what we've been playing. He could have gotten cranked up. If we'd thrown a bunch, he could have had a big game.''

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