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Hail Mary TD helps Vols in The Swamp

9/21/2003

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- With no time left and nothing to lose,
Casey Clausen stepped up in the pocket and let the ball fly -- a
what-the-heck shot into the end zone to close out the first half.

The result: A lucky go-ahead touchdown for Tennessee (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP), and
the turning point of a 24-10 victory over Florida (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP), which
tried but failed to beat the Vols at their own game Saturday.

"That's one of those plays you work on all the time," said
James Banks, who caught the ricocheting 48-yarder. "You never
think you're going to run it, or that it's going to work."

This time, though, it did.

Clausen also hit on the only other long ball he threw -- a
57-yard beauty to Bret Smith in the third quarter. That one set up
the first of two touchdown runs by Jabari Davis, as the Volunteers
(3-0) won their Southeastern Conference opener and set themselves
up as early front-runners in the SEC East.

Clausen and the Vols had some help with this one.

Coach Ron Zook of Florida (2-2, 0-1) pulled this game plan out
of the stone ages -- or maybe out of the Tennessee playbook -- in an
attempt to run the ball, play it close to the vest and eke out a
win.

It was the style Gators fans used to ridicule when it was Vols
coach Phillip Fulmer getting flummoxed by Steve Spurrier's Fun 'N'
Gun. But that was back in the day. This time, Zook got outcoached,
maybe simply because, in his 12 years as head coach at Tennessee,
Fulmer has become a master at the running and field-position game.

"Things change in this game," Fulmer said. "If I had three
running backs like Florida does, I'd play that way, too."

The game turned late in the first half. Behind Ciatrick Fason,
DeShawn Wynn and Ran Carthon, the Gators were grinding on the
ground, nursing a 3-0 lead. They took over at their 20 and Zook
called a running play on first down, a sign the Gators might be
happy to take the lead into the locker room.

But a 6-yard gain led Zook to call a timeout with 40 seconds
left. Ingle Martin followed with an incompletion, and on third
down, Carthon ran for no gain.

Fulmer called timeout to force a punt, and on the last play of
the short drive, Clausen winged it; the ball hit off a couple
Gators and into the hands of Banks, and Tennessee had an unexpected
7-3 lead at halftime.

"Everyone did their job, except for the ball," Gators safety
Daryl Dixon said.

The rest of Tennessee's second straight win in The Swamp -- its
34-32 win here late in the 2001 season knocked Florida out of the
national-title chase -- was somewhat predictable.

Clausen took advantage of a busted coverage and hit Smith to set
up a 1-yard run by Davis for a two-touchdown lead late in the
third.

Martin led a 77-yard drive to pull it back to seven, but then
the Vols did what good teams that play their style do: They marched
76 yards in 11 plays against a physically drained defense. Subbing
for Cedric Houston, who left with bruised ribs, Davis ran for 45 of
his 78 total yards on that drive, including the 9-yard TD that sent
many fans out of the stadium.

"We came out in the second half and just physically wore them
down," Clausen said.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee marching band wore itself out playing
"Rocky Top." Gators offensive lineman Max Starks vowed Clausen
would not get a chance to direct the band during postgame, as he
did in 2001, when the Vols ended a 30-year winless streak at The
Swamp. But Clausen was up on the ladder again -- directing, pumping
his fist and doing the Gator chomp, while the band played on.

Starks was not available for interviews after the game.

Clausen was.

"One thing I've been saying about this team is, `Don't doubt
us," he said.

The senior finished 12-for-23 for 235 yards and improved to 11-0
as a starter on the road.

Martin went 16-for-32 for 205 yards. Sharing time with Chris
Leak, Martin rarely threw downfield, opting instead for the screens
and dump-offs that offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher's passing
attack is built around. Late in the game, he threw out of
desperation and padded the numbers.

But for the most part, the Gators wanted to run, and they did it
without much success. Wynn finished with 35 yards and Carthon had
33. At some points, they and their coach got booed by a crowd used
to seeing more entertaining football.

"Coach Spurrier was a genius as an offensive coordinator,"
said Gators receiver Kelvin Kight (7 catches, 77 yards). "We still
have a great one in Coach Zaunbrecher. We just didn't make the
plays today."

In all, Florida looked nothing like the team that nearly beat
Miami in the 38-33 loss two weeks ago. Nor did Tennessee look like
the team that allowed 382 yards and struggled with Marhsall in a
34-24 win, also two weeks back.

"This is just another step in the right direction," Fulmer
said.