Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was in no mood to answer questions about the Vols' inefficiency inside the red zone this week.
Not after the Vols just scored two touchdowns when they crossed past South Carolina's 20-yard line, marking just the third time that's happened in a single game all season.
"I thought we did pretty well," Chaney said with a smile after Wednesday's practice. "You should have asked that a week ago. We worked our butt off on it last week."
The strong effort, though, barely made a dent on UT's overall performance inside the red zone this season. The Vols rank last in the SEC and 118th in the nation - in front of just one-win Washington State and two-win Buffalo - in red zone offense, scoring on 14 of their 21 opportunities.
It's no coincidence that the Vols have just two wins themselves. Of the teams that comprise the nation's 25 worst red-zone offenses, only five have winning records.
"It's all about execution," Chaney said. "And when you say execution, you talk about details of assignments and that's what we've been a little sloppy with."
Chalk it up as another example of UT's youth on offense, which could feature as many as eight freshmen on the field at times Saturday (TV: CBS College Sports, 8 p.m.) at Memphis.
"It's the attention to detail more than anything and younger players have zero attention to detail," coach Derek Dooley said. "They have less than zero. They have negative attention to detail."
That attention to detail goes well beyond the mistakes being made during red zone plays, Dooley said. Blundered basics such as proper alignment and knowing one's location on the short field relative to the sidelines or back of the end zone have plagued the Vols from scoring more than nine touchdowns in the red zone.
"If you say line up on the hash and we're 2 yards outside when the ball's on the hash, then they break the huddle and that's probably the last place they'll line up," Dooley said. "It's not so much the killer (instinct).
"You get the killer once you understand where to line up, the depth of your route, the spacing, what you do depending on the coverage. It's all the details in the execution."
Those details were exposed in a positive light against the Gamecocks, when two crisp routes by UT receivers helped the Vols score more than 14 offensive points against SEC competition for the second time this season.
The first two red zone possessions against South Carolina were par for the course for the Vols. A promising 14-play drive that milked nearly nine minutes off the clock fizzled out and actually went in reverse once the Vols cracked the Gamecocks' 20-yard line, resulting in a 39-yard Michael Palardy field goal. The next offensive series ended with no points, as Matt Simms was sacked from behind and fumbled the ball back to South Carolina for his third turnover inside the red zone this year.
But Simms rebounded on the following series, hitting senior tight end Luke Stocker with a sharp pass after Stocker's crisply run skinny post route allowed him to be wide open in the middle of the end zone.
"It kind of broke the ice for us a little bit there," Stocker said.
The Vols overcame a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Da'Rick Rogers early in the fourth quarter, which moved them from the 2 to the 17, with surprising ease.
Tyler Bray connected with Gerald Jones on the very next play, as Jones dove to snag his first touchdown pass of the season.
It was one of UT's youngest players hitting one of the most experienced, a sign that perhaps both factions of the team are getting closer to being on the same page when it matters most.
"When you're an older guy, you expect every time you get inside that 20 you're going to put points on that board. And you're looking for six not three," Jones said. "It's something the younger guys got to understand and they will eventually."