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Tennessee finds rushing attack in win over Marshall

Sep 24, 2006 - 12:12 AM KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- LaMarcus Coker helped Tennessee locate its lost ground game.

Coker ran for 146 yards, including an 89-yard scoring scamper in the fourth quarter, as 15th-ranked Tennessee pulled away for a 33-7 victory over Marshall.

Erik Ainge threw for 258 yards and a touchdown and two other tailbacks found the end zone for the Volunteers (3-1), who bounced back from a disappointing loss to Florida and completed a season-opening 3-1 homestand.

In the 21-20 setback to Florida, Tennessee was shut down on the ground, managing minus-11 yards on 23 carries. It came into Saturday's contest averaging 94.7 yards per game and just 3.0 yards per carry.

However, the Volunteers slashed through the Thundering Herd for a season-high rushing 176 yards. Leading the way was Coker, a redshirt freshman who made the most of his eight carries.

"I was happy to be out there getting a chance," said Coker, who was spelling starter Montario Hardesty. "I was just trying to help the team out."

"LaMarcus has done well every time he's gotten an opportunity," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "And he'll get more as we go on."

Tennessee held a 16-7 lead after a scoreless third quarter and was pinned by a punt at its 11. Coker went off left tackle and sped up the sidelines, outracing several defenders to the end zone for a 23-7 lead with 12:36 remaining.

"There were still a lot of people squiggling in their seats, including the head coach," Fulmer admitted. "It felt great seeing him run down the sidelines. I looked back first to make sure there were no flags. That's just the coach in me. We hadn't had a long run like that in a long time."

It was the longest run from scrimmage by a Tennessee player since Kelsey Finch's 99-yard bolt in 1977.

"The offensive line did a great job on the touchdown run," Coker said. "It was actually Ainge's call. It was just off to the races."

The long run seemed to take the fight out of Marshall (1-3), which also surrendered a 49-yard field goal by James Wilhoit and a five-yard TD run by David Yancey before the final gun.

"You heard guys on our sideline talking about (finishing strong)," Fulmer said. "We've been talking to them about that all week. We weren't trying to run up the score on Marshall, but we had some young guys who needed to play."

With more than 104,000 settling in at Neyland Stadium, the start of the game was delayed 55 minutes by heavy rain and flash floods. However, neither team was adversely affected.

"I think our guys were ready to play, I really do," Marshall coach Mark Snyder said.

"The crowd did a great job with the rain," Volunteers defensive end Xavier Mitchell said. "I was excited just to see the crowd in there and they got us hyped."

Mitchell tackled quarterback Bernard Morris in the end zone for a safety, and the Vols found the end zone on the ensuing possession when Ainge hit Jayson Swain with a 47-yard TD pass for a 9-0 lead with 5:17 left in the first quarter.

Ainge completed 18-of-27 passes with one interception. Swain caught five passes for 98 yards and Robert Meacham added six for 76.

Morris answered with a one-yard TD run that capped a 13-play, 92-yard drive in the second period. But Hardesty ran 20 yards for a score with 2:52 before halftime, giving Tennessee a 16-7 advantage.

Yancey had five carries for 23 yards and Hardesty eight for 21 for the Vols, who held a 434-236 advantage in total yards.

Morris was 8-of-14 for 110 yards with an interception. Ahmad Bradshaw added 72 yards on 24 carries for the Thundering Herd, who also lost here in 2003.

"I was proud of their effort," Snyder said. "I saw some improvement today in my team, and if we take it one more step, we're going to be OK. That was a good football team we played out there."

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