Aug 31, 2002
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee's top receiver watched from the sideline wearing shorts. Quarterback Casey Clausen and an unrelenting defense made sure the fourth-ranked Volunteers didn't need Kelley Washington.
Clausen threw for 238 yards and a touchdown, and Cedric Houston and Jabari Davis each ran for two TDs as the Vols routed Wyoming 47-7 Saturday.
Tennessee won its eighth consecutive opener and 16th straight non-conference game thanks to a defense that lost three defensive linemen to the NFL last April. The Vols didn't miss a beat against a Wyoming offense returning 10 starters from a unit that ranked 15th in the nation last season.
Wyoming quarterback Casey Bramlet was under pressure constantly, getting sacked twice. The Cowboys turned the ball over five times, and their running game was nonexistent, losing seven yards on the team's first nine carries.
"Defensively, we didn't ever let them get a breath, and that was encouraging," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "Offensively, I don't know if we did as well as we're capable of doing."
Wyoming finished with 187 total yards, compared with 467 for Tennessee. Still, Cowboys coach Vic Koennig said he saw improvement from the 1999 meeting between the teams, when Wyoming allowed 13 sacks and got two quarterbacks hurt.
Washington, the team's leading receiver last season, is recovering from a partially torn knee ligament that may keep him out until Tennessee plays Florida on Sept. 21. Clausen played well anyway, going 22-for-33. He also scrambled six times for 28 yards and left with the Vols ahead 41-0.
"Casey played with a lot of poise," Fulmer said. "He pulled it down, didn't force it. I don't know if I like him running the ball that much, but he got on the ground. He had a really good day."
Tennessee started the game by going to the air. Clausen threw on four of the Vols' first five plays, and he completed passes to nine different players, including a 19-yard TD pass to Jomo Fagan with 7:43 left in the first quarter. Clausen thinks his receivers just need opportunities.
"They lined up right for the most part and caught the ball. I was excited to see what they can do, and once Kelley comes back, it will be even more excited," Clausen said.
Wyoming couldn't get anything going. Nate Young intercepted Clausen's pass in the second quarter but fumbled, and Jason Respert recovered for Tennessee.
The only problem for Tennessee came in the first quarter, when junior linebacker Kevin Burnett hurt his left knee and had to be helped off the field. He did not return, and Tennessee officials said he tore a ligament.
Tennessee scored only 10 points in each of the first two quarters, but the Vols ran more plays (24) in the first quarter than Wyoming had yards on offense (22). Wyoming tackle Rob Kellerman played against the Vols in 1999 and was impressed with this year's squad.
"Tennessee is a great team. Until you see their speed, you don't understand how athletic they are." he said.
The Volunteers added 21 points within the first nine minutes of the third quarter. Davis had a 4-yard TD run. Rashad Moore sacked Bramlet and forced him to fumble, and Demetrin Veal recovered at the Wyoming 11.
Davis scored four plays later on fourth-and-1 by going up and over the middle for a 2-yard touchdown. The Cowboys went three-and-out, and Tennessee needed only four more plays to score again as Houston ran 46 yards for a TD to make it 41-0 with 6:25 left in the third.
Houston finished with 10 carries for 106 yards, and Alex Walls added field goals of 34, 19, 44 and 40 yards for Tennessee.
Wyoming finally got on the board when Bramlett hit Jovon Bouknight with a 35-yard TD pass in the fourth.
TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer