Vols are looking to swing momentum in short-yardage against Gators

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Florida hasn't dominated the series recently so much as one man did.

Either way, Tennessee is now looking to reclaim it - a couple yards at a time.

With or without Tim Tebow at quarterback the No. 10 Gators are a handful, and coach Urban Meyer has tilted the rivalry dramatically in his favor by winning all five meetings since taking over the program. Nowhere was the edge more decidedly against the Vols than in short-yardage situations on the most important downs over the last four years, and if they hope to snap their losing streak Saturday (TV: WVLT, 3:30 p.m.), they'll have to start by doing what they never could against Tebow - keep the Gators from grinding out the tough yards.

"I remember last year we had like a third-and-3 and we had Tebow basically sacked behind the line," Vols linebacker Nick Reveiz said. "We were about to go crazy, and then all of a sudden he slips one tackle, he slips two tackles, breaks three or four tackles and he got a first down.

"So, that's definitely an element that I don't feel like they can replace because it's Tim Tebow, you can't replace that great of a player - just like we can't replace Eric Berry."

Even with Berry at safety the Vols (1-1) had a tough time getting off the field on meaningful downs, and during Tebow's career, they didn't stop him even one time when he needed four yards or less on third or fourth down and ran the football. That 0-for-13 string wasn't the sole determining factor in UT's losses, but an inability to stop the single-wing approach with Tebow bulling straight ahead certainly played a huge role in them.

Obviously those days are gone with Tebow now in the NFL, and though Florida (2-0) has had some success in pressure situations without him already this season, it's clear the approach has had to change. After throwing four times out of five already needing three yards or less on third down, it's still not exactly clear how the Gators will consistently pick up the yardage that used to be automatic.

"There are some similar concepts that carry over in terms of their run game," UT defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. "Obviously with the quarterback, (John) Brantley will run it some, then they've got another guy (Trey Burton) they'll put back there who's their hybrid and does it all, real talented kid. They still use those same concepts, but it's a different guy back there.

"But teams that are good on third downs are usually good on first downs, because the better situation you get yourself in on third down, obviously the better you're going to be. Third-and-2 is much tougher to call than third-and-10, I'll put it that way."

After those plays are called, actually getting the stop is just as difficult - and the Gators have proven time and again how valuable those conversions are for an offense and demoralizing they can be for the defense.

Given the lack of depth the Vols are currently working with, a few stuffs on third downs coupled with a balanced rushing attack of their own would provide a huge lift as they try to open conference play with an upset of a hated rival. And it will take more than just a few inspired signals from Wilcox to win those pivotal battles with a drive on the line.

"We've got to be creative in how we try to attack those and not put ourselves in bad spots," Wilcox said. "(But) football is an attitude, whether it's third-and-short or first-and-10. Football is an attitude game, and you have to have that in your blood to be able to play it and play it well. At the same time, it also has to do with being physical -- you've got to be big and physical.

"So we're going to have to dig in and fight when we get to those third-and-short situations."

Like the series, those fights have all gone Florida's way lately. Reversing that trend could fix the bigger problem for the Vols, no matter who's lining up at quarterback against them.

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Comments » 21

utvolfan16 writes:

Let's Go Vols! Play a full 60 minutes and get a win!

TKO writes:

Run run run.

oskie_score writes:

I remain cautiously optimistic, that said, play 60 mins against Florida like the 1st 30 mins against Oregon AND sustain no serious injuries = W! IMHO.

AllVol2008#1353998 writes:

Need a couple of breaks, but anything is possible. One almost feels like just one win against Florida or Bama would change the whole program back around.

I don't know that we have the depth.

Down the Field, Tennessee Volunteers. Down the Field.

AllVol2008#1353998 writes:

Spurrier 4, Manning 0. How's that D-head. Spurrier got a Heisman and a street named after him and a Super Bowl MVP?

Well, he's got one, I guess . . . .

Good Guy 1, A--hole 0.

How's that?

jobrando#216494 writes:

in response to TKO:

Run run run.

Field position will decide this one.

VOL03_NC writes:

What excuse can Urban Cryer come up with this year? Last year it was the flu. Play like the first half of the Oregon game and UF will be the first big upset of the year.

tulelakevol writes:

We will not upset felon U if these guys fold like daisies on a cold morning the first time something does not go their way. I will be pulling for my Vols, but they need to toughen up mentally, and be prepared to play hard for 60 minutes of football.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to VOL03_NC:

What excuse can Urban Cryer come up with this year? Last year it was the flu. Play like the first half of the Oregon game and UF will be the first big upset of the year.

I told someone that exact same thing(the last sentence)...UF can't have a bad first half as they did in their first two games and expect to win...If UT puts together a FULL game and play like they did in the first half of the Oregon game, we WIN this game, IMO!!

Let's do it, BIg Orange!!!

AppreciativeAlum writes:

An ability to put points on the board, and make opponents pay for mistakes on either side of the ball would go a long way. Everybody makes mistakes, we just have not shown the ability to extract payment.

The team has the talent to do it. Last year's team was trained to recognize an opponent's mistake at the line of scrimage and exploit it.

This years team seems like it is just trying to execute the play that is called.

buford134 writes:

oregon duck here, we are pulling for you guys this week, i know after watching you play that first half last week that you can beat florida,
alabama i doubt it but florida you will hear us cheering go vols

UTbassdrummer writes:

in response to buford134:

oregon duck here, we are pulling for you guys this week, i know after watching you play that first half last week that you can beat florida,
alabama i doubt it but florida you will hear us cheering go vols

Thanks buford. I feel the same way, and it's really
cool of you to say so.

Good luck with the rest of your season. You
should torch the rest of the pac-10 and I'll
be glad to see it.

Cash writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

516milesfromUT writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

mercyseat writes:

We've got to create turnovers! come on vol defense you can do it!!!!!!!!!!!!

steamboatticket#484773 writes:

In the first 1.75 Qs of the Oregon game, our players looked like world beaters outside of the red zone. They dominated the Ducks, and that was no accident. Our staff and our players did a lot of things very well. Frankly, I think that the coaches let the players down, after the penalty and pic-six. Oregon went for a score in under one minute, and Tennessee had that much time left on the clock. Our coaches reacted as if they did not have a clue what to do. I hope that Dooley and Chaney never fall down on our team like that again, and I do mean never.

yabadabadoo1026 writes:

in response to tulelakevol:

We will not upset felon U if these guys fold like daisies on a cold morning the first time something does not go their way. I will be pulling for my Vols, but they need to toughen up mentally, and be prepared to play hard for 60 minutes of football.

our people calling other schools felon U is just laughable---

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to buford134:

oregon duck here, we are pulling for you guys this week, i know after watching you play that first half last week that you can beat florida,
alabama i doubt it but florida you will hear us cheering go vols

Thanks Buford,

Hey, when you play the Surfer Dude...........after you have run up the score comfortably, perhaps it would be a rather nice play if running toward the Southern Cal bench, one of the Duck backs 'accidently'
flattens one of two so-called coaches on the sideline.

Either the goon Orgeron, or the infamous surfer dude himself. Just run that hurry up offense and blow them out !

SwampMusic writes:

I log in to GoVolsExtra every year before this game to see what you all are saying. This year, with the exception of some comments about "excuses" and "flu" (which I don't get) you guys are pretty civil, realistic. UF-UT is still an important rivalry in my mind and we need the East to get stronger to give Bama a run for their money. I never thought I'd say this, but I hope you guys start turning it around soon. Prediction: UF 21 - UT 6 - Vols bring it, but Gator defense bails out the offense again, scores.

gwvolfan1#234788 writes:

in response to buford134:

oregon duck here, we are pulling for you guys this week, i know after watching you play that first half last week that you can beat florida,
alabama i doubt it but florida you will hear us cheering go vols

Thanks Buford I second it . Thats really cool that you say that. I hope you run the PAC 10 espicially when you play the USC pansies and Kiffy. Beat the trojans for us

Thanks gwvolfan11

Slystone writes:

Less Simms and more anybody else running the ball. Please coach limit the amount of throws Simms has to make. Unless he has an out of body experience he will continue to hurt this team. Did he not have like 16 interceptions during his JUCO year?

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