The Tennessee Volunteers made history last night, routing the UNLV Rebels 42-17 in front of of the third-largest crowd ever to see a game at Neyland Stadium.
Tennessee freshman quaterback Brent Schaeffer (7) turns to hand the ball off during the third quarter of their game against UNLV Sunday, Sept. 5, 2004 in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 42-17.
The Vols played their first Sunday game in Neyland Stadium and made school and SEC history by starting a true-freshman at quarterback. The experiment paid off in spades as both UT’s freshman QBs lived up to their early season promise. All six of the Vol’s scoring drives covered more than 80 yards, with freshman QBs Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge directed the drives in masterful fashion.
The Vols also appear to have learned from history. Schaeffer made an early miscue, fumbling the ball away to UNLV early in the first quarter deep in UNLV territory. The defense bailed him out, holding the Rebels to a field-goal and from there the Vols never looked back. Shaeffer directed a long, 80-yard drive for UT’s first touchdown of the season–a one-yard run by the freshman QB and the Vols never looked back.
But there are still lessons from history to be learned. The Vols run defense looked porous at times, allowing UNLV’s Dominique Dorsey to rush for 117 yards in the game. Stopping the run still has to be a priority for the Vols as they face Auburn with Cadillac Williams in early October. Also, the Vols had an excess of stupid penalties–bringing back bad memories of last year’s Peach Bowl. The Vols were hit with several big-penalties–including several for excessive unsportman like celebration and one unnessary roughness that was well deserved. A block-in-the-back on a punt return kept the score from being more one-sided early in the fourth quarter as well.
Honestly, there needs to be some explanation of what excessive celebration is. I don’t think high-fiving or chest-butting is excessive. My understanding was that these penalaties were called when a player stood over another and taunted or for a pre-planned, choreographed dance on a TD. Players getting excited about a TD or big play is just part of the game. These are young men, playing the first game of the year. Of course, they’re going to be excited about making a big play.
And history has come back to haunt us. Last year, Cedric Houston looked like a world-beater at rusher for two games before going down with an injury and never quite being the same the rest of the year. After two-quarters of looking like a world-beater here, Houston went down with an injury to his ankle. He is reported to be out at least two weeks and could miss the Florida game, where the Vols will need a strong rushing game to keep the Gators off-balance and our freshman QBs safe.
So far, the great freshman QB experiment is working. Except for the breakdown in run defense on misdirections, the Vols looked sharp in the opener–sharper than they have in an opener in recent memroy. The running game looked solid–with not only Houston but also Gerald Riggs Jr and Corey Larkins looking good behind a solid offensive-line. But, for as great as we looked, you have to repeat the mantra, “It’s only UNLV…it’s only UNLV.” It’s not Florida, it’s not Georgia, it’s not Auburn, all of who are coming up for the Vols in the SEC. It was a great start to a season for the Vols. A win is always good. A rout is even better when you’re the one doing the routing.
But the thing I come away with most is optimism. The Vols looked good out there and it gives me hope as we get ready for the rumble a week from Saturday against Florida.
Go Big Orange!
Side note: Why the hell is Rick Clausen wearing number 16?!? I thought that number was supposed to be saved for special players…something Rick Clausen most definitely is NOT!