Tigers sack Tennessee

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com
ATLANTA, Ga -- It was the same bowl, the same team and the same result.
The Tennessee Volunteeers felt optimistic about their chances in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, but after the four-hour event was said and done, they lost everything they had gained over the season.
Clemson (9-4) ran the ball efficiently and didn't suffer the consequences of big penalties. That, with big play mistakes from the No. 6 Volunteers, keyed the Tigers' 27-14 victory at the Georgia Dome.
"This is a good win to have over the sixth-ranked team in the country," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden. "Tennessee has had substantial success under Philip Fulmer and this game shows we are heading in the right direction."
The Volunteers (10-3) suffered from 119 yards in penalties and a dominating four-to-one margin in rushing yards in the game.
Clemson's Chad Jasmin gained 131 yards on 15 carries with a score to earn the Bowl's offensive MVP award, while sophomore quarterback Charlie Whitehurst passed for 246 yards on a 22 of 40 night with one pick.
Tennessee's only bright spot was that of the play of Casey Clausen, who gained 384 yards on 31 completions out of 55 attempts with two scores.
Tennessee was plagued by dropped balls and an apparent touchdown catch from Mark Jones in the second half that was called incomplete by the side judge.
"Well I compliment Clemson, I think they do a great job in what they do," said Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer. "I've said all week that our team worked hard and prepared well. I really thought we were ready to play. Clemson made some plays and we helped them some."
"The punt return, a few missed tackles and the way we played in the first half," he said. "I know we had four or five major penalties in the second half that certainly helped them a lot, that is my responsibility. We didn't play as well as we can."
Fulmer was proud of Tennessee's 10-win season, but was disappointed to lose like they did in front of the largest crowd to witness a sporting event at the dome.
"I appreciate the seniors for what they've done," he said. "They won the East twice and had two 10-win seasons. They left a good legacy with their work and leadership."
It was Tennessees fourth bowl loss in its last five appearances, with the team's last bowl win coming at the hands of Michigan at the Citrus Bowl in 2002, despite having a solid quarterback in Casey Clausen, who ranks second in most of Tennessee's all-time passing categories.
"Obviously it's a disappointing end (to the season and the seniors' careers)," said Clausen. "I would have liked to end with a win, but I gave it all I had."
"Our goal, as seniors, was to leave this program in the state (it was when we arrived as freshmen) and to win 11 games. We came out and played hard, but we came up short."
Clemson scored on their first drive with three big completions deep in the field. It set up a Duane Coleman eight-yard touchdown run.
After a Cedric Houston fumble and the inability to move the ball down the field, the Tigers truck again when Derrick Hamilton took a Dustin Colquitt punt 58 yards to set up a 23-yard field goal from Aaron Hunt.
Tennessee finally found what they were looking for in their last drive of the first quarter, with some big throws from Clausen. Troy Fleming made some grabs to set up a 19-yard touchdown grab from Chris Hannon.
After Jasmin gained 23 on a carry going into the second quarter for the Tigers, he mades some other big gains with an interference penalty leading the way for a 15-yard touchdown run to make it 17-7.
Tennessee forced its only turnover on Clemson's next drive when Whitehurst was picked off by Gibril Wilson. Clausen followed by finding Mark Jones for a 30-yard touchdown throw.
The Vols had the wind taken out of them on the next Clemson series after a Rashad Baker interception on a crucial third down play.
Baker's pick was an overthrown pass, however pass interference was called on Tennessee's Jason Allen who was defending the receiver ten yards in front of the play.
Clemson ran the ball towards the end zone, where Kyle Browning scored off an eight-yard 'fumblerooski.'
Tennessee stopped Clemson's first possession and moved the ball steadily down the field. A big play occurred when Clausen found Mark Jones in the end zone for a touchdown that was called incomplete.
The instant replay showed that Jones had indeed caught the ball. It led to a missed field goal from James Wilhoit after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Penalties hurt Tennessee from that point forward as personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct calls kept Clemson in control of the football.
Tennessee had a hard time moving the ball due to incomplete throws and Clemson wound out the game with a 28-yard field goal from Hunt.
A pre-game altercation between a few members of Tennessee's secondary and the Clemson backfield may have done some damage to the Vols' composure before the game.
Free safety Rashad Baker said he was hit by Clemson's Duane Coleman. That, along with a war of words and the strong Clemson fanbase, ultimitely led to a sour evening for one team and a great one for another.
Tennessee made 26 rushing attempts in the ball game, with six of those being sacks or a loss of yards dealt to Clausen. Houston led Tennessee with 24 yards on six carries, while Mark Jones pulled in 66 yards receiving.
Volunteer receiver and back-up quarterback James Banks was suspended for the first half due to the violation of team rules in Knoxville, according to Fulmer.