Air Force revisited?

The problem with sacrificial lambs – the college football variety, at least – is that they don't always go quietly.

Take the Air Force Falcons, for instance. They were given no chance to win when they showed up at Neyland Stadium to face Tennessee in September of 2006. The Vols were coming off an emotionally draining defeat of California, however, and couldn't solve Air Force's option attack. Result: Tennessee struggled mightily before winning 31-30.

That's a point to ponder heading into this weekend's visit from Louisiana-Lafayette. Like the 2006 Falcons, the Ragin' Cajuns (1-7) are given no chance to win. But, like Air Force, they are catching Tennessee coming off an emotionally draining win (27-24 vs. South Carolina in overtime). And, like Air Force, Louisiana-Lafayette has an option attack that could give Tennessee fits.

When asked if his team can get up for a lightly regarded opponent on the heels of a game as taxing as last weekend's, Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer frowned and replied, "I've never bought into that."

Fulmer insists his players have put the South Carolina game behind them.

"I think (practicing on) Sunday helped us," he said. "We got in there, watched the tape and got that (SC game) over with. I believe they'll be re-centered and refocused."

Junior receiver Josh Briscoe is convinced the Vols will not overlook the Ragin' Cajuns, in spite of their 1-7 record.

"You never can take a team lightly," Briscoe said. "That shows from the Appalachian State-Michigan and Stanford-USC games. This has been a crazy year in college football, so you don't want to be the next team to be upset."

Michigan, of course, was humiliated by Appalachian State on college football's opening weekend. Southern Cal was humiliated by 40-point underdog Stanford earlier this month. Tennessee losing to ULL wouldn't be as shocking as those upsets but it would be just as humiliating.

Like Briscoe, senior quarterback Erik Ainge says the Vols will be ready to play the Ragin' Cajuns, even though the game has no bearing on UT's quest for the SEC East title.

"If we didn't win this game we could still win the other three and still go to the SEC Championship Game," Ainge said. "But if we win these next four games, who knows how high we'll be in the rankings?

"I think we understand how big this game is. I don't expect anyone on this team to not be prepared to win this football game. We need to get better. We know how important it is for us to have a good game on Saturday."

Tennessee's defense, in particular, needs to have a good game. The Vols rank ninth among the 12 SEC teams in rushing defense, 11th in total defense, 11th in pass defense and 12th in scoring defense. Louisiana-Lafayette lacks a great passing attack but it ranks No. 7 nationally in rushing offense, averaging 242.5 yards per game.

Tennessee tends to struggle against mobile quarterbacks, and ULL certainly has one. Michael Desormeaux leads the Cajuns in rushing yards (883), yards per carry (5.8) and rushing touchdowns (6). Magnifying the challenge for Tennessee the fact ULL runs the option, an attack that historically gives UT all kinds of trouble.

"They run quite a bit of option," Vol secondary coach Larry Slade said. "The thing about this game that scares you is that they run the football. The quarterback is a gifted scrambler and they have two or three real good receivers."

Obviously, Louisiana-Lafayette is not a good football team or it wouldn't have a 1-7 record. Still, the Ragin' Cajuns have enough similarities to the 2006 Air Force team to possibly keep Saturday's Homecoming Game from turning into a Tennessee Waltz.

"All you have to do is look at what they've done from an offensive standpoint," Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis said. "Go back and look at the South Carolina game (a 28-14 loss in Week 1). Call Coach Spurrier and ask if he enjoyed playing them in the opening ball game."


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