Defenses are devouring UT's bread, butter (ground game)

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For tailback Montario Hardesty, the bottom line for Tennessee is simple when it comes to a floundering run game.

"We've just got to be more productive," Hardesty said Sunday night. "That's it."

Pretty much anything would be more productive than what Tennessee got done on the ground in a 26-14 loss at 10th-ranked Georgia on Saturday.

The Vols (2-4, 0-3 SEC) had 1 net yard rushing, its lowest total since finishing with minus-11 yards in a one-point loss to Florida in 2006.

UT's recent struggles on the ground are more than a head-scratcher for coach Phillip Fulmer.

"Early in the year, that was kind of our bread and butter," Fulmer said. "We were able to run the football some. We've got to get back to that. This very multiple Mississippi State defense will be a challenge that way."

Mississippi State brings the nation's No. 3 pass defense to Knoxville for Saturday's 7 p.m. kickoff (TV: Pay-per-view), however the Bulldogs are allowing opponents an average of 156.2 yards rushing per game.

"They got a good defense," Hardesty said. "They're definitely physical, but we just need to go into this week and get us better, worry about Tennessee."

There's certainly enough to worry about in the running game.

The Vols ran the ball well early in the season, averaging 165.7 yards through their first four games.

Against Florida and Auburn, owners of the SEC's No. 3 and No. 5 rushing defenses, respectively, Tennessee ran for a combined 220 yards. The last two weeks against Georgia and Northern Illinois, the Vols had a total of 70.

There's plenty of blame to go around.

UT's veteran offensive line has struggled in recent weeks.

Its passing game didn't make Georgia pay for bringing extra players to stop the run. Its defense couldn't get the ball back for the offense.

Partly because Tennessee fell behind early and couldn't keep Georgia's offense off the field late, tailbacks Arian Foster, Lennon Creer and Hardesty combined for 11 carries that resulted in 25 yards.

"We had 11 tries," Fulmer said. "Eleven pure runs called. That's not nearly enough."

Hardesty said Tennessee's tailbacks didn't do enough on the few occassions they touched the ball.

"There's a couple plays where running backs, we didn't hit our proper landmarks on zone plays," said Hardesty, who led UT with six carries for 20 yards against Georgia. "We've just got to be more dynamic as a group running the ball. You can blame other stuff for it, but as running backs we got to look at ourselves in the eyes and make sure we're doing as much as we can to be the best running backs we can be."

According to guard Anthony Parker, a preseason All-SEC and All-America selection, the Vols' offensive line needs to improve, too.

"The ball's not bouncing our way at times, but that goes back to fundamentals and getting the job done in fundamentals," Parker said. "Go back to the practice field and work hard at whatever's beating us over the head and get it fixed."

Fixing UT's running game is imperative, says quarterback Nick Stephens.

"When we're not running the ball well, we have to throw the ball well and vice versa," he said. "It's nice to have a running game to help throw the ball. We've got to find a way to have the ball in our hands more and it starts with running the ball and all around getting better."

Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.

© 2008 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 105

huntined#565710 writes:

Offensive line can not make a hole and runners hitting the line too late and too slow.. need two backs in the backlfield and see if one can block..any back that can't get more than 3 yards a game don't need to be in the game period..

kbart4033#247331 writes:

Vol tailback trio ranks in top half of SEC, but o-line is
on its way to being ranked as all-time worst in UT history.
Two memorable plays vs. Georgia: one was when our center got
pancaked on an off-tackle play, tripping the off-side guard who was supposed to lead RB into hole; other came when
GA d-tackle drove our guard deeper into our backfield than
our RB, who was running for his life. The SEC is just now
learning what Coach Cut and Erik Ainge knew last year: this
bunch has no clue. I am not sure if it is coaching, weightroom
problems or lack of toughness, but, if I am Lennon Creer, I
am happy to sit this season out and pray that we can find some JUCO o-linemen with gonads!

fltapout writes:

Offensive line is showing a white board diagram of the play before the ball is snapped. This ol shold be put on a pine rail to .....

DennisVols writes:

Swith the defensive line to offense. I saw some really big holes for the runnings backs provided by them during the GA game.

fltapout writes:

Take a blank check and close the deal.

http://www.broncosports.com/ViewArtic...

bobbyutvol writes:

BILL COWHER FULL OF PASSION GREAT FIT FOR THE VOLS.

jmbigorange#280428 writes:

in response to fltapout:

Take a blank check and close the deal.

http://www.broncosports.com/ViewArtic...

I could think of a LOT better ways to spend UT's money.

fltapout writes:

in response to jmbigorange#280428:

I could think of a LOT better ways to spend UT's money.

Name it...
God knows you have wasted enough. I would love to hear it.........

rblakeh writes:

Good to hear Montario and Nick taking accountability for the poor performance. I think this team will be OK.

Eventually.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

what diff does it make?? Phil will punt with the game on the line. every time.

---------------------------------------------
the key play against UGA, as far as running?? Foster getting caught from behind on an off-tackle run.

xvolx writes:

the problem is foster and hardesty. neither are quality backs. never have been and never will be. plus.. Fire Fulmer.

KAvolsfan writes:

Hardesty runs his tail off and is a quality back. Yes Foster is struggling but to bash hardesty is ridiculous. For lack of a better term, xvolz, you are an idiot.

raynochonspeed#212632 writes:

in response to 1stAndGoal:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

So you're first.

burpee_von_rotweiler_IV writes:

Every opponent knows about Fulmer's affection for "pounding the rock." Now every team knows which way the rock is going to be pounded by the way UT lines up.

Glad to see there is a new buzz phrase ("got to be more dynamic") instead of the tired old "step up" and "be more productive" and "got to get back to that" and "bread and butter" and "get to where we need to be" and "two fumbles away...'' and so on and so forth. Haven't heard "tempo" in a while though.

WeLoveTennesseeVols writes:

in response to 1stAndGoal:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Give the guy a break. Nothing like piling on a guy is there.

yabadabadoo1026 writes:

in response to KAvolsfan:

Hardesty runs his tail off and is a quality back. Yes Foster is struggling but to bash hardesty is ridiculous. For lack of a better term, xvolz, you are an idiot.

I'm inclined to agree with you on all counts

MidTennVol writes:

As someone else wrote, the offensive line needs to get Fulmer, Chavis and Caldwell on the five-man sled and then push it uphill until they puke.

Maybe then they'll be able to push some people back and open some holes.

VOLKING writes:

in response to WeLoveTennesseeVols:

Give the guy a break. Nothing like piling on a guy is there.

I beg to differ..we actually are giving him 2.4 million breaks a year. He keeps piling the excuses and losses on us for our trouble.

SandySpringsVol writes:

Georgia claimed that it had studied film on Tennessee and, as a result, knew not only when Tennessee was going to run the ball, but also to which side.

What kind of offensive scheme is so transparent?

Conversely, in the fourth quarter Saturday, everyone in Sanford Stadium knew that Georgia was going to run the ball, but Tennessee's defense couldn't stop them, and Georgia drove the field for another touchdown.

Sort of helps to explain that 2-4 record and being 12th out of 12 teams in the SEC.

MidTennVol writes:

Brandon Warren speaks out in Tuesday's Chattanooga paper:

“I played more as a freshman in high school than I have here,” Warren said after the team’s Sunday night practice.

http://timesfreepress.com/news/2008/o...

steve22043#233791 writes:

Fire Hamilton! Are we overlooking what the basic problem is here?

tnfanincali writes:

Fulmer should come out with this statement:
"This miserable puke of a season is my fault. If the Tennessee fans will give me one more year to try to right the ship, I will step down if we do not win the SEC in 09. And I will do so without forcing the university to buy out my contract. I will do this because I love Tennessee more than I love money."
everybody wins!

richvol writes:

WILL MUSCHAMP...before Clemson can convince him to go there.

BSweet writes:

in response to MidTennVol:

Brandon Warren speaks out in Tuesday's Chattanooga paper:

“I played more as a freshman in high school than I have here,” Warren said after the team’s Sunday night practice.

http://timesfreepress.com/news/2008/o...

Interesting article. Sounds like Brandon's pretty frustrated. I don't blame him. Can't say I'm a fan of "special packages" for players. If those players only come in for those plays, aren't we just tipping off what we're going to do? Why not just make it easy? We'll script every play and give it to opposing defenses in advance. Seriously, just put the best players on the field and let them play. But that will never happen as Fulmer believes too strongly in seniority over talent.

OldNumber7 writes:

in response to MidTennVol:

Brandon Warren speaks out in Tuesday's Chattanooga paper:

“I played more as a freshman in high school than I have here,” Warren said after the team’s Sunday night practice.

http://timesfreepress.com/news/2008/o...

This is just sad. These coaches are lost and have taken this program down. When articles like this start circulating it's time to fire the whole staff before no one will sign with UT.

richvol writes:

UT telegraphs it's plays and they are slow to develop.

The offense needs a total makeover for next year...a completely different look. Speed would help too.

The defense needs to recruit their rearends off and we need a secondary coach that can teach man coverage.

MidTennVol writes:

in response to TouchdownTenn:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Indeed, TT. Makes you kind of wonder how they missed him all year, eh? If JC hadn't imploded so spectacularly under those same conditions, Nick might still be riding the pine this season and next.

ThurmondEppy writes:

in response to MidTennVol:

As someone else wrote, the offensive line needs to get Fulmer, Chavis and Caldwell on the five-man sled and then push it uphill until they puke.

Maybe then they'll be able to push some people back and open some holes.

I said it. I simply cannot comprehend our inability to open up holes. 1 yard???? 1 FREAKING YARD???? Unfathomably pathetic.

hippie60 writes:

Is any else sick of these new rules as I am? The 40 second clock and not stopping the clock stinks. You wait all week to watch the games and there over in no time. Why would you buy a ticket to see a team run 40 offensive plays? Who do you complain too? I'm talking about all the games just not U.T. I know we stink.

jobrando#216494 writes:

Clawson messed up a senior offensive line trying to move them to differant positions to confuse the defense. Not workable in the SEC

tennecwingrider writes:

How much talent is sitting and watching the game every Saturday? Stephens probably would have made a difference at Auburn, just needed to get in field goal range. Stocker drops passes and Warren is still on the bench. Hardesty runs straight up the middle for 8 yards and goes back to the bench. Gerald Jones lines up in the "G" gun and runs the same play each time. Fulmer stills scratches his head, makes the same excuses week after week. Why is this guy so stubborn?

jobrando#216494 writes:

Fulmer will fire Clawson with a loss to State...Facing one of the nations top pass defense and no vol run game then how can it be a Win

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to hippie60:

Is any else sick of these new rules as I am? The 40 second clock and not stopping the clock stinks. You wait all week to watch the games and there over in no time. Why would you buy a ticket to see a team run 40 offensive plays? Who do you complain too? I'm talking about all the games just not U.T. I know we stink.

yes, I"ve 'female dogged' about this several times (or Amreican Womaned, depending on your point of view).

many teams run the clock down every single play. the games are boring as hell.

I understand they want to kepp the clock moving for TV, but 40 seconds is too long. maybe go to 30 seconds for college ball. this isn't the nfl, where the pace is different.

you will see many games where the offense comes to LOS and just sits there for five seconds, waiting to run the clock down....

chl1958 writes:

According to Georgia defenders post game comments,they knew the play by onserving Tennessee film of past games and the alignment we were in prior to running that play. Can we be that mentally inept not to correct that simple detail? Our play calling is what is hurting our running game;we have not essentially changed our plays since 1982! We are not physically stronger or faster than the teams today! We must have the mental edge to be competitive- that is the coaching aspect. Apparently,we need brain transplants in that area!

tennisvol writes:

Heck, with good practice this week, we may pick up 2 yards rushing against Mississippi State.

Striker writes:

Im completely sick of talking about this so im going to post this same statement on a couple of the stories and crawl back into my hole for a few days.

I just dont care anymore. Im 41 years old, have attended or PPV/Watched every single game since the 1980's. I have an office coated in UT junk and im over it. The Bama game is coming up and i could care less for the first time in my life.

Most of my life i would worry all week til game time and my attitude was determined by the outcome for the next week. I would decorate my car around Wed/Thur, and NEVER stopped listening to Sport talk on any station it was available (UT related). Off season sucked for me until Fall practice began, and I watched any college game on and found somehow that it would relate to UTs ranking.

Now, I and it appears ridiculous amounts of fans have just reached a point of not caring. AND for all you that think we are "fair Weathered", well this has been building for years. And hell, perhaps we are fair weathered, either way we did care, and now we dont. Too bad, it really is....

Dont let Hamilton fool you folks, its not just bad its VERY bad. UT is giving away or "Donating" ridiculous amounts of tickets, this year to boost the butts in the seats on TV. They have been doing this for the last few years and it grows larger yearly.

Im tired of the politics, $50 tickets, $25 PPV's, and over paid coaches. Im tired of ESPN's nonsense, the BCS, and worrying about something that has no reason to matter to any of us besides the ones playing or the family of those coaching and playing.

What i am happy for is that i finaly grew up this year and realized how stupid ive been for being a sheep for this nonsense.

I blame UT, and their hard headed policy on Coach Fulmer and that staff over the past few years for completely destroying my passion for this sport, as well as the salaries, and ticket prices for running all the working families out the door.

Enjoy this joke if you want to folks but ive had enough...

JayTee writes:

You mean we actually have a ground game. Oh yeah I forgot he's sitting on the bench. He doesn't have enough senority to get in the game.

Old Chinese Proverb: A wise man will always change his mind but a fool never does.

jmbigorange#280428 writes:

in response to fltapout:

Name it...
God knows you have wasted enough. I would love to hear it.........

Brian Kelly, Muschamp, Davis, Sarkesian, Strong, Etc... If you think Peterson is our best option you don't know much about football.

orangebloodgmc writes:

Striker ... so, you're a UT fan if the team is doing well, but otherwise, not so much. Is that pretty much what you are telling us?

dirtdobber1 writes:

looks like we are running the "Mustang Package" on offense now.

Striker writes:

in response to orangebloodgmc:

Striker ... so, you're a UT fan if the team is doing well, but otherwise, not so much. Is that pretty much what you are telling us?

Hey J/A, i said id stuck with them since the 1980's. Check UT's record, i think we have had PLENTY of bad years over that span of time...

volguy41nlouisiana writes:

even the O line sounds like Fulmer now...sheesh..."we need to find the problem and fix it"...ehhhhhhhh derrrr....Ya think there slappy? Good lord

cjraney writes:

It's time for Will Muschamp.

http://muschampforut.wordpress.com/

memphistnvol writes:

in response to TouchdownTenn:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Isn't that the truth. For Stephen's first drives in his two games as QB, he gained some yardage throwing...and then Foster was brought in for the next play.

3 and out.

The coaches should put the players in who will support this QB. He should not have to carry the entire offense.

dvols writes:

just run faster!

TommyJack writes:

in response to hippie60:

Is any else sick of these new rules as I am? The 40 second clock and not stopping the clock stinks. You wait all week to watch the games and there over in no time. Why would you buy a ticket to see a team run 40 offensive plays? Who do you complain too? I'm talking about all the games just not U.T. I know we stink.

Yeah, the rule reeks.

dwolfcreek#397971 writes:

FULMER WILL LEAVE AND TAKE HAMILTON WITH HIM .THATS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN TWO IDIOTS ONLY HAVE ONE BRAIN .

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Phil -"head scratching"??

Who'd a thunk it?

It worked 10 years ago against the Ray Goffs and Donnans of that bygone age.

CoverOrange writes:

UT's "passing game didn't make Georgia pay for bringing extra players to stop the run."

Stephens is doing okay under duress but I can't help remembering the situation 8 years ago. Crompton = Joey Matthews? Stephens = AJ Suggs? BJ Coleman = ?

If we can't run, we gotta pass, and we <50% completions won't do it.

MajorVol writes:

Forget about putting packages together for everybody and put the best 11 on the field and play. Pick the best tailback (Creer) and give him 3 series at least to get in a rhythem. The G gun, all these special plays, it's embarrassing. Line up the best 11 and call the plays based on what the defense is giving you. Stephens can throw the ball if given the opportunity. Don't give the play away by running a motion man to where the play is going. The extra blocker brings in an extra defender. And for God's sake bring the DBs up in the face of some of these receivers. We ain't building rockets here.

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