Red Zone Blues: UT is 118th despite 2 TDs in last game

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."

Andrew Gribble covers Tennessee football and recruiting. He may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble/

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Comments » 11

born2ride writes:

The Vols will get plenty of touchdowns against Memphis. Even Dooley's offense can score on them.

Tnstar writes:

We are getting better each week. I still plan on a bowl game ! Support the Vols by voting for Smokey as mascot of the year. We need to win this week. Please go vote at http://www.capitalonebowl.com/vote/main

DarthBader writes:

Please VOLS, beat Memphis. As bad as October was, we could make November just as rewarding. Lets rally and start a new 4 game season and finish 4-0

JacksonvilleVolunteer writes:

Getting sick of reading about execution and attention to detail, coaches are responsible for these things, we've had good recruiting classes over the past few years. Not expecting the world right now, but coaches stop blaming the players.

JacksonvilleVolunteer writes:

in response to DarthBader:

Please VOLS, beat Memphis. As bad as October was, we could make November just as rewarding. Lets rally and start a new 4 game season and finish 4-0

thats the spirit brother, it can be turned around.

KFDLaw writes:

The Vols should do better in the next four weeks. They are playing teams that have losing records and are struggling just like the Vols.

SEC1 writes:

in response to Tnstar:

We are getting better each week. I still plan on a bowl game ! Support the Vols by voting for Smokey as mascot of the year. We need to win this week. Please go vote at http://www.capitalonebowl.com/vote/main

Only bowling the vols will be doing this year is at the local bowling alley....strike! spare!!

kyvol98 writes:

in response to SEC1:

Only bowling the vols will be doing this year is at the local bowling alley....strike! spare!!

Replied to your copy and paste in another article. I have seen your posts and you are much better than a lazy copy and paste.
I hate lazy trolls.......

OrangePride writes:

Yes......terrible in the red zone is just ONE of the many issues. But when you throw interceptions, get sacked, fumble, and take STUPID penalties, you are going to have lousy stats. Lining up, running tight routes, and playing "smart" football is essential and we seem to be well short of that mark. AND, while I am saying this, most of this is not really due to athleticism and scholarship players....it is fixable. So.....fix it! I should add, I really think the next four games will show bigtime improvement here.....but then I just finished some delicious koolaide and that may have colored my judgement a bit...lol. GO VOLS!

navarrebeachvol writes:

in response to SEC1:

Only bowling the vols will be doing this year is at the local bowling alley....strike! spare!!

I'm guessing that's where you spend most of your time-cleaning the place up when you're not on here.

givehim6 writes:

Now it is Nov. and UT will not be playing ranked teams we should start wining some games, team I'm most concerned about is UK. They always play us tough and with our depth problems this is a concern. But I think UK's had a few injurers too. Should be a good game like always. Once UT wins a few maybe there wont be so many doughtiers.

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