Vols can't 'dig ourselves in a hole'

Four punts, two fumbles and a turnover on downs.

That’s all Tennessee has accomplished on its first drive in seven games this season.

And that’s a trend the Vols must reverse if they’re going to upset No. 2 Alabama tonight in Neyland Stadium (TV: ESPN, 7:45 p.m.).

“We’ve got to be ready to play from the get-go,” says defensive end Wes Brown, one of three Vols from Alabama, “because we don’t want to dig ourselves in a hole like we have in the past.”

It’s not just opening drives that have plagued Tennessee, either.

Opponents have outscored the Vols 44-14 in the first quarter. What’s more, UT has had only nine first-half scoring drives compared to seven first-half turnovers.

Tennessee (3-4, 1-3 SEC) and Alabama (7-0, 4-0) not only enter tonight’s game with disparate records. When it comes to starting football games, UT is the tortoise. Alabama is the hare.

The Crimson Tide has outscored its seven opponents 95-3 in the first quarter. At halftime, Alabama has led by an average score of 24-3.

What’s more, the Tide has only trailed for 75 seconds this season, and that came after an Ole Miss field goal in the first quarter— the first time Bama yielded a first-quarter point all season.

Those quick starts are more than enough to give Tennessee pause.

“This is not a team you want to get behind two or three scores to,” Tennessee offensive coordinator Dave Clawson.

To avoid their first back-to-back losses to Alabama since 1991-92 and the first consecutive losses to Alabama in Phillip Fulmer’s tenure, the Vols can’t fall behind early.

To do that, Tennessee has to be able to control the ball with its running game and keep the ball away from Alabama defenders.

In last week’s 34-3 victory over Mississippi State, Tennessee picked up steam on the ground with 139 yards rushing and did not turn the ball over for the second consecutive week.

This week, Alabama’s defense, which ranks fourth nationally against the run and 16th in total defense, will be without 365-pound nose guard Terrence Cody (knee injury).

That could help the Vols on the ground, but taking advantage of first-half possessions — and turning those possessions into points — is a must for Tennessee.

“You don’t know how many possessions you’re going to have in this game,” Clawson said. “So you’ve got to take advantage of every possession, and you certainly want to keep their offense off the field as well.”

That’s been tough to do.

Behind tailbacks Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram and one the SEC’s bestoffensive lines, the Crimson Tide leads the conference in rushing offense at 209.3 yards per game. It also leads the SEC in time of possession at nearly 33 minutes a game.

Still, the Tide is far from one-dimensional.

Quarterback John Parker Wilson ranks third in the SEC passing efficiency. True freshman Julio Jones has emerged as a reliable target to replace D.J. Hall, who torched UT’s defense for 185 receiving yards and two scores in Alabama’s 41-17 win last year in Tuscaloosa.

“You look at the film and it’s a little bit scary,” defensive coordinator John Chavis said. “Kentucky did a great job slowing their run down, but they had receivers behind people all the time. It’s a commitment to commit enough people in the box.”

With Alabama’s penchant for quick starts, Brown said the Vols must be committed from the opening whistle. Perhaps even before then.

“Coming right out of warm-ups, we better be ready. You saw that they got on a really good team in Georgia,” he said, referring to Alabama’s 31-0 halftime lead in a win at Georgia. “That’s just a prime example. They come out and hit you in the mouth from the beginning.”

Despite all their success early in games, though, the Crimson Tide has left the door cracked in the final 30 minutes.

Georgia outscored Alabama 31-10 in the second half. Kentucky pulled within a field goal two weeks ago after trailing 14-0 at halftime, while Ole Miss rebounded from a 24-3 deficit in an eventual 24-20 loss last Saturday.

Still, the Vols would rather stay close early than stage a comeback late.

“It’s hard to play good defense with a big lead,” Clawson said. “I think it’s a credit to how well they’ve started games that that’s even an issue. When that’s your issue, you’ve got a lot of good problems.”

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

Get Copyright Permissions © 2008, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

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

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Links

Comments » 573

SemperVol writes:

“It’s hard to play good defense with a big lead,” Clawson said.

So that's why you keep games close!

blitzshoot writes:

You ain't coming back on this bunch Vols. Don't fall behind, or least no more than 7. You have to stay within one score. Can the DL have a talk with the OL. or just let the DL go both ways. Step up OL.

thevoice writes:

2nd! Read 'em and weep!

EyeNoEvrthng writes:

in response to SemperVol:

“It’s hard to play good defense with a big lead,” Clawson said.

So that's why you keep games close!

He REALLY did not say this ,did he ????????? Well ,he continues to play Rogers ,even though he continues to drop balls, well ?

blitzshoot writes:

in response to thevoice:

2nd! Read 'em and weep!

ooops

thevoice writes:

Same story, just a different angle. We start games about the same way we start seasons!

thevoice writes:

in response to blitzshoot:

ooops

At least I placed.

tnbigg writes:

“We’ve got to be ready to play from the get-go,”

I give Wes a lot of credit for helping this year...but this statement spotlights the fundamental problem that has haunted us for years now. It has become a habit. NOT BEING READY. If we're not ready Saturday...Don Mederith will start singing...and I'd rather hear Dom Mederith sing his song...than some fat lady...

MemphisVol writes:

Come on VOLS!!!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

in response to tnbigg:

“We’ve got to be ready to play from the get-go,”

I give Wes a lot of credit for helping this year...but this statement spotlights the fundamental problem that has haunted us for years now. It has become a habit. NOT BEING READY. If we're not ready Saturday...Don Mederith will start singing...and I'd rather hear Dom Mederith sing his song...than some fat lady...

Ok Lordy, lets all face facts.

Hard but true. We are outmatched man for man except for Berry. He cannot shoulder this load by himself.

Doug Mathews said on 104.5 The Zone, Phixable could survive this, perhaps. Said Bama simply had too much. (i.e.-recruiting)

But it would take the perfect storm to hit Bama.

So who knows, my myriad of JA shirts and "I Beat Biddle" bumper stickers do not qualify me as an expert.

They just qualify me as a long time Vol fan who's had enuf. Phixable, cute sayings aside, your time has passed.

We go to war with sticks verus swords. If the earth doesn't tilt, we lose.

Period.

Give it your best, Vols.

BillsBrother writes:

PD - "If the earth doesn't tilt, we lose."

So you're saying there's a chance!

Moaninglikeheck writes:

in response to pdhuff#552644:

Ok Lordy, lets all face facts.

Hard but true. We are outmatched man for man except for Berry. He cannot shoulder this load by himself.

Doug Mathews said on 104.5 The Zone, Phixable could survive this, perhaps. Said Bama simply had too much. (i.e.-recruiting)

But it would take the perfect storm to hit Bama.

So who knows, my myriad of JA shirts and "I Beat Biddle" bumper stickers do not qualify me as an expert.

They just qualify me as a long time Vol fan who's had enuf. Phixable, cute sayings aside, your time has passed.

We go to war with sticks verus swords. If the earth doesn't tilt, we lose.

Period.

Give it your best, Vols.

Get over yourself and sell those t-shirts and bumper stickers on e-bay for what you can get...hmmm, a buck fitty maybe?

TommyJack writes:

in response to pdhuff#552644:

Ok Lordy, lets all face facts.

Hard but true. We are outmatched man for man except for Berry. He cannot shoulder this load by himself.

Doug Mathews said on 104.5 The Zone, Phixable could survive this, perhaps. Said Bama simply had too much. (i.e.-recruiting)

But it would take the perfect storm to hit Bama.

So who knows, my myriad of JA shirts and "I Beat Biddle" bumper stickers do not qualify me as an expert.

They just qualify me as a long time Vol fan who's had enuf. Phixable, cute sayings aside, your time has passed.

We go to war with sticks verus swords. If the earth doesn't tilt, we lose.

Period.

Give it your best, Vols.

If we weren't doomed before, Lee Corso just picked us over Bama. Lawdy.

TommyJack writes:

PD: I don't think that Moanin boy likes you! lol

tnbigg writes:

in response to TommyJack:

PD: I don't think that Moanin boy likes you! lol

He thinks you, me and pdhuff are all the same person. I suspect he is about to meltdown tnbigg time. It's the time of day where he starts drinking and then he begins to think he's ten feet tall and bulletproof. Safe behind his cyber hideout...prepare for the evening taunting...the juice will drive it...I do love though the moronic posts he posts (including the ones that could be called "novel" in more than one way) when he's claiming others are ignorant and implies he is brilliant. But...we do have remember that he is more mature than his mammy and sister and everybody he ever worked with...

HeckuvaStandpoint writes:

Start FAST with FULMER BINGO

Just in time for Bammer

http://www.fulmerbingo.com/

"Give them Credit, from a Bingo Standpoint, they play it well"
- CPF

shipperman#280095 writes:

BAMA 35 UT 17

TommyJack writes:

meltdown tnbigg time. :)

Moaninglikeheck writes:

in response to tnbigg:

He thinks you, me and pdhuff are all the same person. I suspect he is about to meltdown tnbigg time. It's the time of day where he starts drinking and then he begins to think he's ten feet tall and bulletproof. Safe behind his cyber hideout...prepare for the evening taunting...the juice will drive it...I do love though the moronic posts he posts (including the ones that could be called "novel" in more than one way) when he's claiming others are ignorant and implies he is brilliant. But...we do have remember that he is more mature than his mammy and sister and everybody he ever worked with...

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

invisiblekid writes:

in response to TommyJack:

If we weren't doomed before, Lee Corso just picked us over Bama. Lawdy.

Stop watching that trash, it'll put your eyes out.

tnbigg writes:

in response to Moaninglikeheck:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Fred. Are you feeling ten feet tall and bulletproof...again...in your safe little hiding place? I love it when the babbling blimp of Blount County starts acting like the "big man" he has always dreamed he could be. Keep drinking blimp boy...you sure are brave! Mature too! Obviously more mature than anyone on this site! Taunt it blimp boy!

tnbigg writes:

in response to TommyJack:

meltdown tnbigg time. :)

Maybe his trannygirl didn't "come" so he's trolling the site for a stand in for the big game. Hope he doesn't confuse too many on here for his preference! His mammy messed him up with all that "taking care" of her stuff. Bummer about his sister catching them...no wonder they fight like they do...but he's still more mature!

Moaninglikeheck writes:

in response to tnbigg:

Fred. Are you feeling ten feet tall and bulletproof...again...in your safe little hiding place? I love it when the babbling blimp of Blount County starts acting like the "big man" he has always dreamed he could be. Keep drinking blimp boy...you sure are brave! Mature too! Obviously more mature than anyone on this site! Taunt it blimp boy!

Nah nah man. It's just I've never read or heard of someone with a normal, healthy level of testosterone using the word "taunt" so much.

Honestly, I can't imagine accusing others of taunting me when they disagree with me or poke at me. That would be very gay. Take it like a man, Geoff!!

Moaninglikeheck writes:

in response to tnbigg:

Maybe his trannygirl didn't "come" so he's trolling the site for a stand in for the big game. Hope he doesn't confuse too many on here for his preference! His mammy messed him up with all that "taking care" of her stuff. Bummer about his sister catching them...no wonder they fight like they do...but he's still more mature!

It's the Kentucky game that I'm going to genius.

tnbigg writes:

in response to Moaninglikeheck:

It's the Kentucky game that I'm going to genius.

Well Fred. All I said...was "the big game"...g e n i u s...I didn't say which big game...now did I? So...gayblade...calm your self...have another drink...and brace yourself to be even bolder than ever before...

Moaninglikeheck writes:

No no, skippy. That was in your post from a day or so back where you mentioned the Bama game...but I'm not keeping score fella.

Calm down, calm down man. Did something happen to your Johnny Majors autographed picture? Find it and keep it close on your nightstand for comfort. The soft glow of your bedside lamp should make Johnny's NC ring (from Pitt) gleam in the quiet retreat of your Grandma's basement bedroom.

Oenoboy writes:

What's the first thing an Alabama girl says after losing her virginity?

Get off me dad, you're squishing my Marlboroughs.

Moaninglikeheck writes:

in response to Oenoboy:

What's the first thing an Alabama girl says after losing her virginity?

Get off me dad, you're squishing my Marlboroughs.

I don't care who you are, that's funny right there!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

in response to TommyJack:

If we weren't doomed before, Lee Corso just picked us over Bama. Lawdy.

That did it, case closed.

All the signs are in.

tnbigg writes:

in response to Moaninglikeheck:

No no, skippy. That was in your post from a day or so back where you mentioned the Bama game...but I'm not keeping score fella.

Calm down, calm down man. Did something happen to your Johnny Majors autographed picture? Find it and keep it close on your nightstand for comfort. The soft glow of your bedside lamp should make Johnny's NC ring (from Pitt) gleam in the quiet retreat of your Grandma's basement bedroom.

Good to see you calming yourself there Fred. I would sure hate to see you phreak out again...I don't know why you keep bringing Johnny Majors...he must have crushed the little fat boy who imagined he didn't say "hello" to him at the movie theater...so long ago...but you're still so bitter and want to make him pay...plus...you laughing at Bama jokes after the incestuos life you led is a bit trite...

tnbigg writes:

in response to Moaninglikeheck:

I don't care who you are, that's funny right there!

Well...gotta' go tubby...hope you can find a stand in for your trannygirl for the KY game...oh man...that has crazy posting possibilities! Taking your trannygirl to the KY game! I gotta' get out of here...this is too funny!

wkjq#213863 writes:

in response to thevoice:

At least I placed.

I don't get it, placed at what?

CRFVols writes:

Do we have ANY offensive stats that aren't absolutely repulsive as a Tennessee team???

Moaninglikeheck writes:

in response to tnbigg:

Well...gotta' go tubby...hope you can find a stand in for your trannygirl for the KY game...oh man...that has crazy posting possibilities! Taking your trannygirl to the KY game! I gotta' get out of here...this is too funny!

Gigglesnort, you missed your calling as a comedian Geoff.

FlaVol2 writes:

Come on Vols - Go give Bama a whooping. Go Vols!!!

tyler1 writes:

another normal game 3 and out fisrt 4 possesions nick stephens will go 12-30 with 2 interceptions and 0 tds/ 40 to 14 alabama . we will only score if john crompton plays.

SFOrange writes:

we don't have the horses: BAMA 38 UT 9

ncvol writes:

Rocky Top -you'll always be Home Sweet Home to me....
Good ole Rocky Top-Rocky Top Tennessee.
Hope we get to sing it alot tomorrow....
Go Vols !Go Vols ! Go Vols !

EyeNoEvrthng writes:

Kinda reminds me of the "Manning Days" ( self proclaimed one-man-team) against Florida !

stormblast writes:

We really don't need to continue the trend. Our inept offense can not cope with this. If Bama continues it's trend (personally, I think our defense is better than Georgia's...doubtful Bama will score 31 in the game much less than that in the first half), then we're going to have a seriously hard time scoring points offensively.

If Bama goes up by two touchdowns in the first half, then they will rely more on their defense and feel pretty confident in doing it. We can't rely on Nick Stephens to throw 300 yards and 4 touchdowns should we fall behind 2 or 3 scores.

It's crucial our offense sustains drives. We need to establish a running game early. Set the tempo. Eat the clock and score (at least field goals). We need to lead early. Make Bama have to do something they haven't hardly done this season - answer the opponent with a score.

ChattVol2485 writes:

Hope our guys come to play tomorrow and pull off the upset.

GO VOLS!!!

Ralph_Crampton writes:

For what its worth, I do not think Bama is the second best team in country...I think they are a year or two behind being one of the nation's finest..they must have at least one more team of top recruits...or it would be better two more top classes of top talent. I think they lack good depth this year....they seem to tire in second half.

BillsBrother writes:

So, if we win the toss do we
A) choose to receive and hope our offense defies the odds, or
B) defer and hope that our defense can catch a break?

newtonrail writes:

in response to EyeNoEvrthng:

He REALLY did not say this ,did he ????????? Well ,he continues to play Rogers ,even though he continues to drop balls, well ?

Rogers? Oh yeah, the white guy. Come on, give your racist remarks a rest. No matter what screen name you use, it comes out the same.

Volundergrad47 writes:

in response to tyler1:

another normal game 3 and out fisrt 4 possesions nick stephens will go 12-30 with 2 interceptions and 0 tds/ 40 to 14 alabama . we will only score if john crompton plays.

John Crompton threw two touchdowns against UAB. That is it. So what makes you think he is going to score against Bama. Stephens is not great but he is the best we have right now.

CRFVols writes:

Anyone else think this perfect10n gala deal might have kept Phil in his job this long? I mean...think about how bad that would have made the atmosphere at the gala and overshadowed what the intention of the gala was? Anyone think it's a valid point?

BillsBrother writes:

in response to CRFVols:

Anyone else think this perfect10n gala deal might have kept Phil in his job this long? I mean...think about how bad that would have made the atmosphere at the gala and overshadowed what the intention of the gala was? Anyone think it's a valid point?

I think it is a very shallow point.

In spite of his poor performance this year and all of our howls to get rid of him, there are still a lot of legitmate reasons that he is still coach.

WeLoveTennesseeVols writes:

Bla, Bla, Bla, Bla, Bla!!!!!! MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTHS ARE, LOSERS!! YOU'RE ALL LUCKY TO LIVE IN A FREE COUNTRY AND IN A GREAT STATE. PULL FOR YOUR TEAM AND SHUT UP OR YOU'LL ALL GO DOWN THE TUBES TOGETHER. ESPECIALLY YOU FULMER HATERS, YOU'LL GO FIRST...SO THERE'S YOUR FIRST, SECOND, AND THIRD. MORONS OF THE FIRST, SECOND, AND THIRD DEGREE!!!

BillsBrother writes:

in response to Lostballnhighweeds:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Legitmate reasons that CPF is still TN HC
1) $6,000,000 buyout
2) CPF has support of prominent boosters
3) middle of the season
4) firing a coach in the middle of the season following an appearance in a league championship would hinder attracting a new quality coach
5) Firing a former national champion coach in the middle of the season would cause some quality coaches to refuse to consider TN
6) Firing a Tennessee graduate, former player and 17 year head coach in the middle of the season would cause some quality coaches to avoid Tennessee.

CPF deserves to be on thin ice, but there are legitimate reasons that he is still here, and we have not even mentioned his won-loss record.

west_tn_volfan writes:

in response to WeLoveTennesseeVols:

Bla, Bla, Bla, Bla, Bla!!!!!! MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTHS ARE, LOSERS!! YOU'RE ALL LUCKY TO LIVE IN A FREE COUNTRY AND IN A GREAT STATE. PULL FOR YOUR TEAM AND SHUT UP OR YOU'LL ALL GO DOWN THE TUBES TOGETHER. ESPECIALLY YOU FULMER HATERS, YOU'LL GO FIRST...SO THERE'S YOUR FIRST, SECOND, AND THIRD. MORONS OF THE FIRST, SECOND, AND THIRD DEGREE!!!

Your most nonsensical post yet, and thats saying something.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features