The White squad wasn't asking for much.
Marlin Lane gave it everything it possibly could have wanted.
Facing a lengthy third down just before halftime, Tennessee's second-team offense dialed up a draw play simply to pick up a few yards and hopefully set up a field goal. It's expectations were apparently too low for Lane, who instead bolted through a hole in the defense for a touchdown that helped send his team into the locker room with the lead on its way to a 17-14 win in the Orange and White Game on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
"I really didn't know I was going to score," Lane said. "I was just running.
"They told me to get five yards and (set up) a field goal. I just decided to try to get more than five, just keep breaking tackles and get closer for the kicker."
The Orange team still needed a kicker, but the work was significantly easier, with Derrick Brodus only having to knock through an extra point after Lane dashed 39 yards down the middle of the field before stretching his arms into the end zone for his second touchdown of the afternoon.
The Vols spent all spring emphasizing improvement for its beleaguered rushing attack after struggling so mightily to move the ball a year ago, clearly expecting much more on the ground after finishing among the worst teams in the nation there last season. But at least for one play, UT might have set the bar too low for its running backs, with Lane allowing his instincts to take over as he cruised through a hole up front and flashed a bit of breakaway speed on the way to the goal line.
In all, he finished with 106 yards on just nine carries to pace the attack for the winning side, sending the pre-spring favorite to win the starting job into the offseason with some positive momentum. But Lane certainly wasn't the only one to leave with something to feel good about statistically, and with three other rushers averaging nearly five yards per carry, UT coach Derek Dooley might not be short on options in the backfield.
"I think we have three guys who all have different qualities and can help us move the football," Dooley said. "You saw a little spurt of all of it today. They're all three good backs, I think Marlin's experience probably showed up today, and hopefully those three will continue to develop — and then we've got a young freshman coming in for the fall, too.
"It was good to see. ... I try to judge the body of work over 15 practices, and this game is important because it's a true game setting and that's why I think his experience out there at running back probably gave (Lane) a little edge."
UT tweaked the format of the annual exhibition to get that truer setting, keeping the starters together after a couple years of drafting rosters and winding up with games that didn't produce much quality competition and offered little to evaluate.
Lane ended up on the outside looking in at the first-team unit with Rajion Neal and Devrin Young getting the nod instead, and that combination was productive as well with a combined 91 yards rushing and a touchdown. And while that ultimately wasn't enough for the White to overcome a costly turnover in the first half or some sloppiness in a late two-minute drill with the game on the line, neither side had much to complain about on the ground.
And regardless of what was on the scoreboard, that surely counted as a victory for the Vols.
"We feel like we made the progress we needed to make," Dooley said. "It doesn't mean we're a great running team, but it's something to build on."