Tennessee QB Matt Simms handles sacks with poise

Tennesse quarterback Matt Simms scores a touchdown against LSU at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010. UT lost the game 16-14 after a defensive penalty in the final play of the game.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennesse quarterback Matt Simms scores a touchdown against LSU at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010. UT lost the game 16-14 after a defensive penalty in the final play of the game.

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Matt Simms considers himself a pro when it comes to taking a sack. The Tennessee quarterback has a little experience having been hit with 18 of them in five games.

"I know it sounds weird, but I really think I've kind of mastered how to take a sack and just protect my body and protect the football," he said. "Really, most people would think you try to tense up and kind of ball up your muscle, but really you kind of relax and let your body go, really to be honest, and not try to brace yourself by putting your hand out or bracing the fall."

Simms knows that when your starting offensive line includes only one senior playing next to two true freshmen and two sophomores, sacks will just be a part of the game. The Volunteers (2-3, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) are giving up an average 3.8 sacks per game, ranking them 117th out of 120 FBS teams.

The young line has begun to improve lately as the freshmen and sophomores get more time on the field. The current starting lineup has started two consecutive games together, though sophomore Dallas Thomas may be out against Georgia after hurting his ankle.

Georgia's defense has struggled in its first season of a 3-4 scheme, but coach Mark Richt thinks the Bulldogs, who are averaging two sacks per game, are improving.

"We're at least to the point where they are comfortable doing it where they can really play with the speed that you need to play with," Richt said. "As you learn something, you just can't cut it loose like you do once it's yours."

Even if the Bulldogs (1-4, 0-3) can reach Simms before he releases the ball, the junior quarterback won't let it affect him or his offense too much. Sure, the Vols have given up 128 yards with 19 total sacks — an average of 6.7 yards per sack — but Simms has shown no problems popping up off the field and getting into position for the next play. He hasn't even taken an ice bath this year to soothe aches and pains.

"I kind of just believe in the natural healing process, I guess," Simms said. "This is SEC football. You're gonna get hit. Bad thing is that I'm going be on a lot of highlight reels, and I don't want to be on their highlight reels. But that's the reason why I came here, to compete against the best."

He also isn't mentally affected. One LSU defensive lineman quipped after pinning Simms to the ground early in the Tigers' 16-14 win last week that he'd be there all day. Simms quickly retorted that he'd be around all day too.

"I've never seen a quarterback be talking to a defensive lineman like that," sophomore center Darin Gooch said. "Most quarterbacks just kind of shy away like, 'I don't want to get hit by him again,' but Matt's going to take it head-on and be a tough guy about it."

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is always worried when his quarterback is sacked. He's done the math and has found when the quarterback is sacked the chance of the team scoring during the same drive is about 13 percent.

Dooley also was encouraged by what he saw from the offensive line against LSU's defense, the best in the conference. The Vols had a few three-and-outs but put together a 71-yard scoring drive and 49-yard drive in the fourth quarter without giving up a sack.

"They didn't get affected. They didn't start screaming. They just stayed poised and they kept playing," Dooley said. "I think that's awesome. To get about 120 yards in the last two drives against the best defense in the country, it means we're staying with it. We're staying together. We're communicating. We're trying to work through it, and it just shows if you do that, over time it's going to come."

Simms statistics aren't horrible considering how much time he's spent on the ground. He's completing 56 percent of his pass attempts for an average 191.4 yards per game and has thrown six touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Still, senior wide receiver Gerald Jones knows that if the offensive line can protect Simms just a little bit longer on each passing play, the Vols passing game will become a far more serious threat.

"I said, 'If you can hold on this long, we'll do the rest,'" Jones said, holding his thumb and forefinger close together. "I think day by day they get better and better."

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Comments » 26

ravensearay writes:

This team gets better every game. Nothing to be ashamed about losing three games this year to teams that are all ranked in the top 10 in college football. Each of those losses - we got closer to winning. The day is coming when we will beat a top 10 team and I think that day is soon...........

VOLliven2it writes:

Naffy Nuck---nwack,nwack,nwack!
Sims is tough but anyone can only take so many of the type hits he gets. O-line, step up guys! We need big protection for our qb and huge holes for our rbs to hit. This is the weekend you can do it. Show us another level above where you were last week. GO BIG ORANGE!

volfan8#549730 writes:

Sims is a tough guy; but I would like him to be sacked less... OLine is coming around. I am proud of the Vols! GBO!

thevoice writes:

Matt Simms. I really like this kid, everything about him.

Bellem13 writes:

I like to watch this team play because they play like a team, a unit that is organized and supportive of each other.

Love My VOLS - My UT!

It's GREAT TO BE A TN VOL!!!

RollTideJoe writes:

I've frankly been somewhat impressed with Simms. He's taken a lot of punishment and he tightens his chin strap and goes at it again. He's made some impressive throws, especially under tremendous pressure. If he had an experienced line in front of him, he could well be a good QB. He's a gamer.

volsreign writes:

in response to naffy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey naf, Lincoln is going to be a Navy Seal when he leaves UT. You don't get any tougher than that. He can't help it when a muscle rips and he can't extend his leg.

GeneralNeyland96redux writes:

RTJ - We appreciate the complimentary post from a rival fan....there are too many of the other types trolling around here too often!

Good luck with the cornish gamehens this weekend...we'll see you on the 23rd!

orangecountyvols writes:

Naffy kid,

Mommy also said time's up. You've had enough time using her computer.

Special forces and Navy Seals. Boy, would we ever like to see a kid like you try something like that.

One and done as they say. One day you'd be there, next day on the way home.

Pitiful troll..............that you are.

TommyJack writes:

in response to naffy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Stow it Bob, or I will expose you.

10ECMATT writes:

in response to naffy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wow, your cousin. I bet you are the coolest little girl on the playground.

bigorangejeffy writes:

or he could just throw the ball instead of holding on to it for 8 seconds every play

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to naffy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Witch Doctors ghost speak from the grave...
" Witch Doctor say not the first time your mommy has made excuses so men could stay home all day with her".
Bones never lie.
*if you can dish it out but not take any back..then you are girls.....really.

GeneralNeyland96redux writes:

Hey Witchy...did you get ##-canned too???

VolQB writes:

I wish he would master avoiding sacks and make a special play. I agree that Oline gives him no time on 50% of the sacks but the other times he looks for a graceful fall.

In saying all that I like Simms as our QB. He is doing a great job in his first year. He is starting to run the team effeciently and with confidence. I just hope to see one or two out of the pocket passes while avoiding a sack sometime this season.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to GeneralNeyland96redux:

Hey Witchy...did you get ##-canned too???

Witch Doctor hurt someones feelings......I thought they were "professionals". Witch Doctor say thick skin is earned..Witch Doctor say they wouldn't last 10 seconds on the Row. Witch Doctor LAUGH at criticism...but I guess some cant and it cuts deep.
Bones never die.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to naffy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Witch Doctors ghost throw up little in mouth.
Bones never lie.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctors ghost throw up little in mouth.
Bones never lie.

Doc,

Surely this is a joke. You aren't a buddy with the kid, AKA Kid Troll Naffy........are you?

Surely not, and don't call me Shirley

Except for other trolls, the kid has no friends.

Stepchild_nFL writes:

Good, He's mastered the skill of taking a sack. Go limp, like a noodle, and play dead. Now thats improvement. I like this kid. Stepchild say Daddy don't beat me.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to steviejanowski:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Witch Doctor say heck..Witch Doctor tell you where the slaves are hiding for all that! lol.
Bones never lie.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Doc,

Surely this is a joke. You aren't a buddy with the kid, AKA Kid Troll Naffy........are you?

Surely not, and don't call me Shirley

Except for other trolls, the kid has no friends.

NO! Witch Doctors ghost say naffy have no friends or buds.
Bones never Die.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to naffy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Witch Doctor say prefacing your character supposed actions naffy? Hmmm
Bones never lie.

GeneralNeyland96redux writes:

in response to naffy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Gov't worker....THAT explains a lot!!!

dvols writes:

he just might be the perfect QB for the situation TN is in right now...

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to dvols:

he just might be the perfect QB for the situation TN is in right now...

I agree 100%.

VolInIndy writes:

in response to bigorangejeffy:

or he could just throw the ball instead of holding on to it for 8 seconds every play

true, Ainge had some issues but going down with the ball was not one of them

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