Jump to content

Keys to the Game


Recommended Posts

By John Harris

a. It’s RCT, y’all (that would be Rick Clausen time) – You had to feel for Rick Clausen a bit, well, that is, if you had a heart. He transfers to Tennessee after being at LSU to possibly succeed his brother, Casey, as the signal caller for the Vols. Then, Generation Z takes over, and #16 is relegated to nothing more than pine time, as Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer took the reins of the Tennessee offense. But, whether it was divine intervention or just happenstance, Clausen, a guy who handled his ‘situation’ with grace and honor, finally got his shot when the dynamic duo was injured in consecutive games. Granted, the Notre Dame game blew up in his face, but in the two games as a starter, the lefty from Cali led an offense that has registered an average of 37.5 points per game. Darn near Louisville like. Sure, it was Vandy and Kentucky, but he got it done, no matter how pretty or not, that’s still a lot of points on the board. Shoot, he threw for 349 against the Wildcats in Knoxville, but while the shades of blue will change, so will the pass defense. However, the focus in this game can’t be ‘what can the Vols not do’ with Clausen, but what can he do well, no matter who they play against. Let the running game work, and then use his plethora of lanky receivers on play action routes. Move the pocket, preferably to the left, to stay out of harm’s way, i.e the Auburn defensive ends. Clausen has decent feet, and can throw the ball on the run, not to mention the fact that rolling out doesn’t have to be a risky proposition. And, don’t be afraid to go deep. If you’ve read any of these articles the past two years, you’ve heard the author preach about opening it up deep – it’s a win-win situation, especially with a relatively inexperienced QB at the helm. Let RCT commence.


b. They’re not just secondarily important - To understand how good this Auburn secondary has played this year, consider that prior to this season, the Auburn front seven returned one full-time starter from 2003. Yet, this is one of the best defenses in the country in 2004, and most people would, and perhaps should, point the finger right square at the Tigers back four for this improvement. Carlos Rogers is perhaps the SEC defensive player of the year. Junior Rosegreen and Will Herring will make the big hit (just ask Reggie Brown from Georgia), but are fundamentally sound enough to break down and make solid open field tackles. Montavis Pitts has shone opposite Rogers, even though opponents pinpoint him on a weekly basis. But, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts for this foursome, and the parts are pretty dadgum good. They frustrated Erik Ainge throughout the first meeting, enough that he threw the ball to Rosegreen almost more than he did to his guys in the orange jerseys. But, facing the lefty substitute quarterback could be a little tricky. It’s kind of like facing a right handed fastball pitcher all game long, then seeing a left sinker baller in the ninth inning. It’s hard to know what really to expect from this Tennessee offense, Clausen is just starting to scratch the surface with what he can do, but with only seeing him in two games, has he given this unit any tendencies to bank on? Has he shown anything that’ll tip his hand? Is there any ‘pet play’ that Randy Sanders likes to go to with Clausen as opposed to his rookies? Even though Clausen has some solid receiving threats, this secondary won’t be caught out of position or undisciplined in a situation that’ll cost them in a big way.

c. Kid ‘n Play House Party – You’ve got to be wondering where this heading is going, but just stay with me here. Two plays, involving the Tigers’ most versatile and arguably it’s most important player Ronnie Brown, will illustrate the point for the Vols defense. The first took place at Auburn against LSU in the fourth quarter. Brown had caught a short pass on the Auburn sideline, then took on the whole LSU defense, pimp slapping one Tiger and running over another. It resulted in a short gain, but you could see that the senior running back was not going to be stopped. The other play was in the first quarter against Tennessee. Brown took a handoff and was on his way to a touchdown, before safety Jason Allen stepped in the way at about the four yard line. Brown planted Allen in the Neyland Stadium turf as he scored the Tigers’ first touchdown of the night. So, the point? If you’re going to have success against not only Brown but the Cadillac as well, the Vols better have a party at the football and invite all of their closest friends. If a Vol is sitting in a hole, one-on-one against Brown or Williams, man, what is there to say? That’s not an advantageous position to be in at all. But, with the linebackers, plural, flowing to the ball, free from Auburn OL ‘trash’, and safety support, they’ll have enough to ‘party’ at the ball and make tackles. Not become highlight film fodder. Coaches consistently preach getting to the football, and that’s honestly the biggest key for the Tennessee defense this week in Atlanta.

Conclusion: This game reminds me a little of the 2001 LSU-Tennessee SEC championship game. Tennessee, the prohibitive favorite. LSU, well, not so much. Then, LSU loses Rohan Davey and his backup, a guy named Mauck comes in and leads his team to a surprising victory. Mauck’s abilities changed the LSU’s offensive gameplan enough that it gave Tennessee problems. Maybe that’s Rick Clausen this year, but for Tennessee. It’s nice to dream, but it’s not going to happen. Jason Campbell had a field day against this Vol secondary in Knoxville and will do it again if the Vols can’t force the Tigers into predictable third and long situations. If Vandy and Kentucky piled up 64 points, Auburn, well, let’s just not go there. Auburn – 31 vs. Tennessee - 14


Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...