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Vols freshmen show maturity in the opener

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Published September 7, 2004

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Somebody check their driver licenses. Or their birth certificates. There's no way Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge are 18.

Sunday night before a national TV audience and a Neyland Stadium crowd of 108,625, the true freshman quarterbacks turned heads in a 42-17 opening win over Nevada-Las Vegas.

Starter Schaeffer led the Vols on four scoring drives in his six possessions. Ainge took the Vols on touchdown marches twice in his five series. Schaeffer had 152 yards total offense, including a TD pass and a TD run. Ainge threw for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

"It would be great for one of us to throw for a lot of yards and run for a lot of yards," Ainge said of splitting time with Schaeffer. "But all we want to do is win. We want to do what's best for the team."

Like shaky young colts trying to walk before running, Schaeffer and Ainge had their unnerving opening moments before delivering first-quarter touchdowns.

On Tennessee's third play Schaeffer was blitzed from the backside, fumbled and UNLV's Pete Dunbar recovered at the Tennessee 28. UNLV got a field goal out of the turnover.

But on Schaeffer's second series he took the Vols on an 80-yard drive that ended with his 1-yard touchdown run.

Schaeffer faked a handoff, rolled right, got pressure from linebacker Ryan Claridge, turned the corner and found himself at the 5-yard line with four defenders between him and the goal line. Schaeffer juked, and three defenders dived at air and the fourth stood there watching Schaeffer's dance steps as he scooted into the end zone.

The veteran Vols were suitably impressed by Schaeffer, the first SEC freshman quarterback to start an opener in 59 years, and Ainge.

"A couple of times in the huddle, they both said, "Who wants to be a playmaker, who wants to make a play?' " said senior receiver Tony Brown, a co-captain who grabbed a 3-yard scoring toss from Ainge. "We knew when they both got here this summer they were talented."

AIR FORCE: Linebacker Overton Spence was reinstated after he was acquitted of charges of possession and use of a steroid. The school said he would start practice immediately.

Spence had testified that he used methandrostenolone but did not know it was illegal. He said he briefly used the drug last year when he feared a grueling academy survival course would leave him underweight for the football season. Spence was one of five cadets charged with steroid use based on an investigation this year.

The NCAA said last week that since Spence had never tested positive for steroids, which would result in a mandatory year's suspension, it was up to the academy to determine the case.

A second player, Matthew Ward, faces a court-martial this week.

LSU: Quarterbacks Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell struggled to move the offense against Oregon State on Saturday. They changed places four times and generated just enough points for an overtime victory.

That was enough to keep both of them in the plans for the No. 6 Tigers' game against Arkansas State on Saturday, coach Nick Saban said.

"I think it's a tribute to both guys that they went in and out of the game in the second half, and both ended up making plays that contributed to the success that we had coming back in the game," Saban said of the 22-21 win.

Randall is a fifth-year senior, and Russell is a redshirt freshman.

SOUTH CAROLINA: When coach Lou Holtz set out to revamp his team's losing culture this offseason, he took a look at himself as well.

Gone, at least for now, are the woe-is-me laments for which Holtz is famous. Instead it's a hopeful Holtz preparing the Gamecocks for No. 3 Georgia at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.

"I'm not saying he was the devil," senior offensive lineman Jonathan Alston said. "But he really has toned down the negatives."

Holtz calls the process "changing the culture" at South Carolina. He fired four coaches who had been with him his first five seasons at South Carolina. He took control of the offense from his son, Skip. And he began a weekly class for players in which they discuss issues such as responsibility and citizenship.

LA. TECH 38, NEVADA 21: Ryan Moats rushed for 257 yards, including three touchdowns for the host Bulldogs. Moats averaged 7.8 yards and scored on a 12-yard run in the first quarter and a 3-yard run in the second. He sprinted 45 yards for another score in the third. Tech had 396 yards rushing.

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