KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Brent Schaeffer was a little nervous making history in his collegiate debut before more than 108,000 fans.
After a fumble early in the game, Tennessee’s quarterback settled down and ran for one touchdown and threw for another in the 14th-ranked Volunteers’ 42-17 win over UNLV on Sunday night.
Schaeffer was the first true freshman to start an opener in the Southeastern Conference since Georgia’s John Rauch in 1945.
Fellow freshman Erik Ainge, bracketed with Schaeffer at No. 1 on the depth chart, passed for two touchdowns.
“I had a couple of butterflies, but after those first couple of plays, I felt good,” Schaeffer said.
Both showed off their special skills: Schaeffer’s elusive running, and Ainge’s strong arm.
Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer was pleased by all of it.
“That’s really about as good as you could hope for,” Fulmer said. “I think the team around them lifted them up. … I don’t think there was pressure for them to win the game.”
Schaeffer fumbled to end his first series, but he ran for a 1-yard touchdown in his second series.
On third-and-1, Schaeffer got past a defender in the backfield, rolled right, dodged more defenders and ran into the end zone to give Tennessee a 7-3 lead.
After the fumble, Schaeffer got some advice from offensive coordinator Randy Sanders.
“He told me to forget it and play like it never happened,” Schaeffer said.
Schaeffer went 7-of-10 for 123 yards and ran seven times for 29 yards.
Ainge came in for the Volunteers’ third possession and capped an 80-yard drive with a 42-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Fayton.
Ainge’s best effort came in the second half, when he completed a 3-yard pass to Tony Brown for a touchdown at the end of a 13-play, 82-yard drive.
Ainge was 7-of-9 for 69 yards in the drive and finished 10-of-17 for 118 yards. He said he didn’t mind splitting time with Schaeffer.
“I’m not worried about how many passes I have as long as we get the win,” he said.
The freshmen fared better in their debuts than Tennessee’s defense, which, at times, had trouble stopping UNLV’s tailbacks. The Rebels, who have lost four of six openers under coach John Robinson, rolled up 164 yards on the ground.
Dominique Dorsey had 18 carries for 121 yards and a 17-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. He went over 100 yards for the sixth time in his career.
Dyante Perkins ran 3 yards for another score in the third quarter.
Tennessee lost starting tailback Cedric Houston to a right ankle injury in the third quarter. He rushed for 97 yards. Gerald Riggs filled in and finished with 79 yards on 13 carries, including a 3-yard touchdown run. Corey Larkins added a 23-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
UNLV led 3-0 early in the first quarter, but the Vols responded with 28 straight points to put the game out of reach. The Rebels avoided a rout similar to the 62-3 thrashing they took in their only other meeting with Tennessee, in 1996 in Knoxville.
UNLV dropped to 3-13 against ranked opponents after winning their last two games against then No. 14 Wisconsin and then-No. 13 Colorado State last season.