Points a-plenty?

If Saturday's Tennessee-Kentucky football game were a cowboy movie, the obvious title would be "The Shootout at UK Corral."

With two potent offenses and two mediocre defenses gathered at Commonwealth Stadium, there's a good chance the scoreboard operator is going to have a busy day. The Wildcats average 35.5 points per game, the Vols 33.5. Moreover, the Big Orange is 10th among SEC teams in scoring defense, the Big Blue 11th.

When asked how he feels about the prospect of a shootout, however, Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe laughed.

"Every time somebody asks about a shootout it ends up being a 7-6 game," he said. "You know that, don't you? You don't EVER know what it's going to be like."

Coaches tend to be control freaks, so most are uncomfortable when the scoring gets out of control. So, what can an offensive coordinator do to prevent a football game from turning into a track meet?

"Obviously, we would like to do well offensively and stay on the field," Cutcliffe said. "That's the best thing you can do."

Tennessee's defense hasn't exactly struck fear in the hearts of road opponents this season. The Vols allowed their first four road foes to average 41.5 points per game. On UT's recent four-game homestand, however, the stop unit limited South Carolina to 24 points, Louisiana-Lafayette to 7, Arkansas to 13 and Vanderbilt to 24.

"Our defense is really playing well," Cutcliffe noted. "Kentucky's offense knows they're going to have to play well."

Kentucky's defense needs to play well, also. It surrendered 45 points to Florida, 38 to South Carolina, 37 to LSU and 31 to Mississippi State in recent weeks. Last week, however, the Big Blue turned in a pretty stout defensive effort in a 24-13 loss at Georgia.

"Kentucky goes to Georgia and holds them to 283 yards," Cutcliffe said, "so who knows what's going to occur? You just go out and play sound, solid football, take care of the ball and do what we do hopefully the best we can possibly do it."

Cutcliffe meets with Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis before each game to map strategy. Cutcliffe projects how many points his troops will score and Chavis projects how many points his troops will allow. Both men may need pocket calculators this week, given the likelihood of a high-scoring affair.

"We have a coordinators meeting with Coach Fulmer, where we talk about both sides of the ball," Cutcliffe said. "But that's still a very difficult thing to predict. You have no idea how the flavor of a game is going to go."

Sometimes the flavor changes from one half to the next. Against South Carolina, for instance, Tennessee rang up 21 first-half points, then didn't score again until Daniel Lincoln hit a game-tying field goal with 5 seconds left in regulation.

"Sometimes you'll score a bunch of points in one half and, all of a sudden, you can't scratch anything out," Cutcliffe noted. "Or vice versa."

Still, the Vol coordinator has an idea how many points Tennessee will need to win Saturday's game. He just isn't willing to divulge it.

"We're just going in with a thought process of what it's going to take to win, and I'm not going to share that," he said. "But then you'd better be ready to adapt because, more times than not, the adapting takes place."

Because Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer loves ball-control "pound the rock" football, you'd figure he is averse to shootouts. He says he doesn't care how many points are scored Saturday, however.

"Just as long as somehow, someway we get more than they do … whether we have to block a punt and win 3-0 or 52-50," he said. "I don't have any control over that once the game starts."

When asked how a high-scoring game affects his comfort level, the head man grinned smugly.

"We don't have any comfort level right now," he said. "We're fighting like heck on defense to get off the field."

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