Casey's hurtin' for certain

When Tennessee elected to ''go for it'' on fourth-and-1 at the South Carolina 5-yard line in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game at Columbia, the Gamecocks had to assume Casey Clausen would NOT be carrying the ball.

After all, the Vols' junior quarterback was still slowed by a fractured collarbone and was limping from a second-quarter ankle sprain so severe that he missed UT's first six plays of the third quarter. When Vol coaches gathered during a timeout to discuss the fourth-and-one play call, however, Clausen volunteered to carry the mail himself.

''I told them, 'Give me the ball and I'll get in the end zone,' '' he recalled.

They did, calling a naked bootleg around right end with a pass/run option. Clausen got a big block from tight end Jason Witten and scored untouched, turning a 12-10 lead into an 18-10 cushion with 6:19 to go.

Noted for his toughness, Clausen injured his collarbone in Tennessee's six-overtime defeat of Arkansas on Oct. 5 and missed the entire Georgia game a week later. He came back to play against Alabama two weeks later but was unable to make certain throws because of pain in his shoulder.

Clausen injured his ankle midway through the second quarter of the Carolina game when he was flattened by defensive end Moe Thompson on a sack. Tennessee punted on the next play but Rashad Baker intercepted one snap later, and Clausen returned to guide a 10-play drive that produced a 24-yard field goal and a 9-3 lead. He threw just two passes on the drive, completing one for 23 yards to Witten.

Admitting that the ankle was ''pretty swollen'' by halftime, Clausen said he was getting it retaped when the third quarter began. Tennessee received the second-half kickoff, and freshman James Banks was at QB for the first six plays, directing the Big Orange to one first down before the offense began to stall. A delay-of-game penalty, an incompletion and a holding call left UT facing a second-and-18. That's when Clausen returned to the sidelines and convined head coach Phil Fulmer to put him back into the lineup.

''It took awhile to get me out (for the second half),'' Clausen recalled. ''I was getting a little frustrated. I said, 'Hey, I'm ready to go.' I heard the crowd getting excited, so I knew the kickoff was coming. They finally got me back out on the field, and I went back in.''

Asked how his shoulder felt during the Carolina game, Clausen shrugged.

''It hurt,'' he said. ''It's not going to get any better. It (pain) is still there, and it's going to be there for another couple of weeks.''

Although his shoulder and ankle were hurting, Clausen was feeling pretty good about the outcome of Saturday's game.

''This was important for us -- coming into someone else's house and getting a big win on the road, getting us back on the winning track and having guys feel good about themselves again,'' he said. ''The coaches were getting a lot of heat ... and the players. It was just big for us to get back on the winning track.

''We know what kind of team we have. Now we just have to go out, week in and week out, and prove it.''


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