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TENNESSEE Team Report
Still, the Vols are not happy. Yes, they put together an impressive game-winning drive in last week's 16-13 victory over Alabama, but they were not pleased with the way the rest of the game went for an offense that had been tearing up most opponents.
"We were sporadic," Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge said. "We would move the ball then I would make a mistake. We were moving the ball. When you watch the film, that is what you see. We were moving the ball, then I would make a mistake. We needed to eliminate those mistakes and just keep doing what we were doing. We were not playing as well as we could have, but we were not doing bad."
The eighth-ranked Vols (6-1, 2-1 SEC) believe they would be a lot better going into Saturday's game if they were more productive in the running game.
After rushing for only 57 yards and 2.7 yards per carry against Alabama, the Vols are only 10th in the SEC in rushing. The lack of running success allowed Alabama to send more pressure in obvious pass situations and took some of the options out of Tennessee's multiple offense.
"We are definitely going to look at finding ways (to run) more consistently than what we were able to, or at least call the runs against the eight-man fronts to give us some chance to find some balance," Fulmer said. "Even with all that said, we have a chance to score 28 to 35 points if we just get the ball in the end zone when we're down there close enough to do that.
"I think all of us offensively would have liked to have had more balance in the ballgame. But we felt like if they were going to commit that much to stopping the run, and play that much man-to-man, that we had the skill level to beat them."
According to Tennessee players and coaches, the problem isn't a lack of personnel or talent. It's just a matter of getting it done.
"I believe we can," tailback Arian Foster said. "I believe our running backs are talented enough to, and our line has definitely been moving the pile. I just believe that we've had fewer opportunities to be successful in the run game. But I believe once (offensive coordinator David) Cutcliffe gives us the opportunity, we can be successful."
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: While the offense struggled against Alabama, the defense kept the Vols in the game, holding Alabama to three first downs on 15 third-down opportunities, 11 first downs, 211 total yards and 53 rushing yards. The Vols also recorded three sacks and kept constant pressure on Alabama QB John Parker Wilson. The Vols are allowing only 18.4 points, 118.9 rushing yards and 278.9 yards per game. The next step is making more big plays after recording only 10 takeaways and 14 sacks in seven games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't know about payback games or anything. I don't pay much attention to that. Each week you just try to get ready to play your best, and it's worked pretty well for us doing it that way." -- Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, whose team lost 16-15 to South Carolina last season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Erik Ainge -- Ainge was more erratic last week than he has been all season, particularly in the first half with three interceptions. Give him credit, though. He came through when the Vols really needed him to, completing five of seven passes for 63 yards on the game-winning touchdown drive. "Erik did not play nearly as well as he has been playing -- mistakes and misreads and just not throwing the football as well as he had," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "But it was great to see him have the courage and the toughness to come back and play as well as he did the last drive or two in the fourth quarter."
FS/PR Jonathan Hefney -- With the offense struggling to move the ball, Hefney gave the offense a boost with 104 yards on six returns, including returns of 42 and 30 yards.
LB Jerod Mayo -- Mayo is the SEC defensive player of the week after recording a game-high 12 tackles, with two for losses and a sack on the game's final play against Alabama. Mayo enters the eighth game of the season ranked sixth in the SEC with 7.6 tackles per game. He's also fifth with 0.71 sacks per game and fourth with 1.29 tackles for loss per game.
DE Xavier Mitchell -- Mitchell also came up with his share of big plays against Alabama, with a sack, two quarterback pressures and a pass deflection to go with four tackles.
ROSTER REPORT: The Vols' inconsistent running game took a hit when they lost redshirt freshman TB Lamarcus Coker to a knee injury that is expected to keep him out three to six weeks. With Coker out, the Vols will continue to turn to sophomore Arian Foster and redshirt freshman Montario Hardesty.
Previous Report: 10/22/2006