Nick of time

Tennessee's backup quarterback didn't play in Game 2, didn't play in Game 3 and won't play Saturday night in Game 4 ... unless the Vols are putting a beat-down on Ohio University.

Head coach Lane Kiffin believes in sticking with his starting quarterback unless (A) the guy gets hurt or (B) the game gets out of hand.

So, Nick Stephens won't see action against the Bobcats this weekend unless Jonathan Crompton has the wind knocked out of him or the Big Orange has a commanding lead. That's what happened in Game 1. With Tennessee up 49-7, Stephens got to direct the Vols' final two possessions. He completed 4 of 4 passes for 44 yards and directed two touchdown drives.

Unless the Ohio U game follows a similar script, Stephens' only activity on Saturday will be during pregame warmups.

"The best scenario is like the opener: Play really well on offense and defense, so we can put the backup in because we're up by a lot of points," Kiffin said. "That's the scenario we all want to see. I don't envision another scenario happening where Nick plays. Jonathan is going to play well, we're going to play well as a team and eventually Nick will play if we do everything right."

Obviously, Tennessee didn't do everything right in Game 2 vs. UCLA or Game 3 vs. Florida. The Vols passed for a mere 93 yards each time, thereby putting a lot of pressure on the ground attack. Kiffin believes the passing game is coming around, however, and thinks the Vols may be a lot more efficient this Saturday than they were the previous two weekends.

"We need to do that. We need to play extremely well," he said. "We need to get some juice - some confidence - on offense."

The lack of confidence is understandable. Tennessee's offense has accounted for just 13 points in each of the past two outings, so members of the Vol attack unit could use a strong showing Saturday to provide an emotional lift.

"I'm not saying they're down," Kiffin said, "but we need to do better."

On the first play of the second half against UCLA Crompton threw his third interception of the day and fifth of the season. The Vols have thrown the ball sparingly ever since.

"Part of that obviously is understanding the game plan, especially last week and the second half of Game 2 versus UCLA," Kiffin said. "We need to not play that way this week."

Tennessee won't throw the ball 40 times Saturday but the Vols might throw it 30 times.

As Kiffin put it: "We need to get some confidence in these guys - get our balls outside and let those guys (receivers) make some plays out there."

And, if the Vols make enough plays early, Nick Stephens may get to join the fun at some point.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories