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Speedy Vols outrun Wolverines

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Michigan didn't let Tennessee tailback Travis Stephens show off his speed. His teammates had no trouble showing theirs.

Casey Clausen threw three scoring passes, two to Kelley Washington and one to Jason Witten, and ran for two more touchdowns Tuesday as the No. 8 Volunteers (11-2) handed No. 17 Michigan its worst bowl loss, 45-17 in the Citrus Bowl.

"I felt defensively we'd do a much better job containing the Tennessee offense," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.

Michigan's plan was to stop Stephens, who set Tennessee's single-season rushing record this season and punished Florida for 226 yards on the ground.

Mission accomplished, but there was a problem. Well, actually several problems.

Michigan couldn't consistently cover Washington, Witten, Donte Stallworth and the other receivers often lining up in a four-wide set. Sometimes, the Vols lined up the fullbacks and tailbacks wide.

"We were trash-talking the whole game. I was saying, 'The SEC is too fast for y'all. Y'all better watch out,' " Stephens said he told the Michigan players. "It didn't surprise me, their speed compared to our speed. We knew looking on the film they were overmatched speedwise."

Tennessee rolled up 503 yards, the most Michigan allowed all season. The Wolverines had not given up more than 26 points this season and saw their four-game winning streak in bowls end.

Clausen completed 26 of 34 passes for a career-high 393 yards, with no interceptions. During one stretch, he completed 10 straight passes.

Stephens was held to just 38 yards on 16 carries, and Stallworth outgained him with 42 yards on one rushing play.

"I think everybody stereotypes the Big Ten and the SEC. The Big Ten is more power and physical, and the SEC is mainly all speed," Clausen said. "Michigan was a real big, physical team. We're big and physical too, but I think the difference was speed."

Even Jason Witten, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound tight end, made Michigan's defenders look tortoise-like.

The Vols, who won their first bowl game since the 1998 national title, increased their lead to 31-10 at the beginning of the third quarter when Witten caught a pass from Clausen across the middle and ran untouched 64 yards for a touchdown. Stallworth blocked two trailing defenders from chasing him down.

"He had some breakaway speed, some speed I didn't know he had," Stephens said, laughing.

From then on, Michigan had little chance to mount a comeback. The Wolverines couldn't get anything going on offense. Many times, they would get a drive going, but Tennessee would stop them on third or fourth down.

"We weren't going to let them run the football and they weren't going to let us run the football," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "We were able to make the plays in the passing game that they didn't."

Michigan was held to 103 yards rushing and 240 passing. John Navarre completed 21 of 39 passes, but was intercepted once. Both quarterbacks were sacked four times.

Stallworth finished with eight catches for 119 yards, while Witten had six for 125 yards. Washington caught six passes for 70 yards.