KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Carlin Fils-aime was ready to make amends.
Still smarting over a costly-mistake in a 3-point loss at South Carolina last weeknd, Tennessee’s freshman tailback scored the first two touchdowns of his career in the Volunteers 55-0 rout over Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
The Naples (Fla.) native bounced-back nicely after committing an error on his lone snap in the costly defeat against the Gamecocks.
With no Jalen Hurd or Alvin Kamara, Fils-aime was called on after a long run by John Kelly midway through the fourth quarter in a close game in Columbia. On a miscommunication, the freshman running back accidently knocked the ball out of quarterback Josh Dobbs’ hands on a play-fake, quickly turning a one-score game in a 10-point deficit.
“That was tough on me,” Fils-aime said.
“Just going in for that one rep. We had the momentum (after Kelly’s 34-yard scamper), and as a freshman, just messing up on the first play. It kind of got to me.”
But while Tennessee’s team chemistry has been questioned in recent weeks, Fils-aime told a different story, explaining that his teammates were the reason he was able to move forward from the fumble.
“They just walked up to me and said, ‘Hey man. Head up. Next play. Stuff happens,’” he recalled.
“When they came up to me and said that to me, that’s when I thought to myself, ‘This is a real family.’ I kept my head up and got prepared for this next week.”
With Hurd gone and Kamara still banged up, Fils-aime expected to see a serious increase in snaps against Tennessee Tech. Coming into Saturday, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound tailback had just four carries on the season — all late in the comeback rout over Virginia Tech on Sept. 10.
His only other offensive snap this year was the play at South Carolina.
Still, Fils-aime didn’t approach practice any differently this week. He said he’s maintained a strong focus all season — whether he’s played or not or made a mistake or not.
“I try to do the best I can,” he said.
“I make sure that every (practice rep) I act as if I’m in a game and going 100 miles an hour. If I mess up, I mess up. But I learn from my mistakes and do better.”
FIls-aime didn’t light up the stat sheet Saturday, tallying 27 yards on 8 carries. But the tailback displayed solid toughness in red zone, scoring two touchdowns on short-yardage carries. He was happy to reach pay-dirt after a long drought, too.
“I hadn’t been in the end zone in a while. The first touchdown that I got, it felt amazing,” he said.
“I couldn’t believe that I was actually in the end zone. It wasn’t until I got up, and the O-linemen were picking me up. I thought to myself, ‘I really just got in here,’ and I got excited.”