Vols defense needs solid game against No. 2 Tide

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Alabama's defense gets most of the credit for the Crimson Tide's dominance. Tennessee knows to compete with the second-ranked team in the nation, the Volunteers will need to have their best defensive performance of the season.

"It's going to be a fun game, and we've got to keep that passion and energy the whole game," Tennessee defensive tackle Daniel Hood said. "With a team like Alabama, they're going to hit some big plays. They've got too many good players not to do something like that."

Before the season began, all the talk surrounding the Volunteers defense was about how young and depleted its ranks were.

The defense had lost reliable senior linemen Chris Walker and Gerald Williams and linebackers Nick Reveiz, Savion Frazier and LaMarcus Thompson. Expected starting linebacker Herman Lathers suffered an offseason ankle injury that's kept him out of the lineup, and coach Derek Dooley kicked star safety Janzen Jackson off the team for ongoing personal issues.

What was left was a squad with a few familiar faces like tackle Malik Jackson and defensive back Prentiss Waggner surrounded by some rising young stars and some unknowns. After six games, the Vols (3-3, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) have given up 350.3 yards a game, ranking them 43rd among 120 nationally — but eighth in the SEC.

The defense seemed to improve last week, holding No. 1 LSU scoreless in the first quarter to end a 31-quarter scoring streak. But the Vols couldn't contain backup quarterback Jordan Jefferson in the second half, and LSU finished with 237 yards rushing and 383 total yards in its 38-7 victory.

"I liked how we came out and played with emotion and sustained it for both quarters, and in that first half against LSU we controlled the run well," said Hood, who picked up his first career sack in the second quarter against an LSU offensive line that had only allowed four all season. "We did a lot of things right. We had a couple of mistakes that were pretty obvious. In the second half we didn't do as well, but I liked how we had everybody playing with that passion that you see in the great Tennessee teams in the past.

"Now the challenge is having that same passion for four quarters."

That passion, Hood said, includes players getting excited about each play and making stops with physical hits and gang tackling — the kind of things that inspire the Tennessee band to play "Rocky Top" over and over.

"Execution is what it boils down to," Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. "We were in the right places for the most part, our line assignment was good, we just didn't execute as well in the second half as we did in the first half. That's what this game is about, especially when you play good teams. You have to get the guy on the ground when he is in your gap and in the pass game we have to compete for the ball when it is in the air. That's essentially what it was."

While its defense has earned most of the praise, Alabama (7-0, 4-0) has become the top rushing offense in the SEC (361.3 ypg), top scoring offense (50.2 ppg) and second-best total offense (603.7 ypg). The Tide ranks third nationally with four drives of 90 yards or longer.

"I think some people kind of overlook our offense because our defense is playing extremely well right now, but there is no part of me that's ever doubted the offense at all," Alabama linebacker Don'ta Hightower said. "Those guys are always helping us out and giving us breathers, having 86-yard drives or getting three or four first downs before we punt. Our offense is playing really well and maybe the best it has played in a couple years."

The Crimson Tide has gotten a huge boost from junior running back Trent Richardson, whose 130.3 yards rushing per game lead the SEC and rank fourth in the nation, but has also benefited from sophomore quarterback A.J. McCarron's improved game management abilities. McCarron has thrown 151 passes without an interception, and he threw for a career-high four touchdowns Oct. 8 against a stingy Vanderbilt defense.

"He is very efficient and he does exactly what they need him to do," Wilcox said. "He can throw the ball down the field and is very accurate with intermediate routes. They do a very good job with the screen game as well to try to slow your rush down. You have to be disciplined in the screen game or they can bust one of those and split you. As a complete offense, they are very well rounded and very well coached."

Alabama coach Nick Saban thinks Dooley has done a good job with the challenges he's faced on defense.

"Defensively I think they are much improved from where they were a year ago," Saban said. "They are a year older and they have some young guys playing, but those guys are really good players and they've done a really nice job on special teams. We have a lot of respect for this team and what they can do. We need to take care of our business so that we can take care of business."

___

AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Ala., contributed to this story.

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Comments » 33

VOLliven2it writes:

Go and Play 60 minutes dudes. You can do it and make all Vol fans proud of you. And winning the game would be icing beyond all description.

NashvillePreds writes:

DYK: A bama degree is only recognized as being accredited in certain municipalities located throughout northern alabama?

GO VOLS

CoverOrange writes:

I think the stats are off a bit. Can't average 50.2 ppg when you only have one game above 50.

SignalMtnVol writes:

And, falling under the category of "No kidding".

Next article will be: "Offense Needs to Score Points against #2 Alabama to Win Game"

Sorry, I'm not usually sarcastic. Call it football seasonal depression. ; )

CoverOrange writes:

460 ypg total offense not 603.7.
241 ypg rushing not 361.3.

Come on Beth, did your brother by another mother pull your leg on stats?

Of course, both are still leading the SEC.

wallingdad writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

I think the stats are off a bit. Can't average 50.2 ppg when you only have one game above 50.

yeah...i come up with 39.7...still pretty good but a far cry from the 50.2. not sure where that came from

DannyVol writes:

Another Beth Rucker deadline masterpiece.

CantStandCantStandSaban writes:

361 yards rushing per game? That can't be accurate. But if it is, they should replace "solid game" with "miracle" in the story's headline.

SEC1 writes:

won't be close, tide steam-roll.....write it down

Volunatic writes:

I'll file this one under "Obvious"

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

Not gonna expect a miraculous effort in this game, just give it your best shot..That's all we can ask for as Vol fans because expecting a W is in unrealistic..But you never know because that's why the games are played.

Smokey says he will be cheering his Vols on no matter what..

TommyJack writes:

in response to SEC1:

won't be close, tide steam-roll.....write it down

cubicle chatter. and a really bold prediction

jobrando#216494 writes:

biggest upset in history as Bama only gets 14

285exp writes:

in response to NashvillePreds:

DYK: A bama degree is only recognized as being accredited in certain municipalities located throughout northern alabama?

GO VOLS

DYK

US News National University Rankings

Vandy #17
UF #58
UGA #62
Bama #75
AU #82
UT #101
USC #111
UK #124
LSU #128
Ark #132
Miss #143
MSU #157

Roll Tide

NashvillePreds writes:

in response to 285exp:

DYK

US News National University Rankings

Vandy #17
UF #58
UGA #62
Bama #75
AU #82
UT #101
USC #111
UK #124
LSU #128
Ark #132
Miss #143
MSU #157

Roll Tide

Wow.
Too bad a huge component of those rankings is reflected in state funding.
Due to the backwards culture of bama politics, those boys in the capital fall over backwards to give money they don't have to a university that produces lackluster students.
Average ACT score at Tennessee is 27.
Is the ACT required to attend Alabubba?
How's the Bham bankruptcy going?

GO VOLS

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to jobrando#216494:

biggest upset in history as Bama only gets 14

Sir..Really?? Come on!!It's a nice thought but wake up from your dream and join us.

Smokey says you MUST be realistic..

D60 writes:

Thank goodness that Saban and Dooley are friends or this could be a 63-7 shellacking

10SE writes:

Do you think that we can score 7?

15_counting writes:

in response to jobrando#216494:

biggest upset in history as Bama only gets 14

Yeah 14 National Championships and Tennessee is just another SMALL bump in the road. Bama covers the 30 and calls off the dogs!

dvols writes:

does TN play Alabama this weekend??

does anybody in TN really care?

D60 writes:

in response to 10SE:

Do you think that we can score 7?

A Pity score when the band is on the field

cloudodust writes:

in response to D60:

Thank goodness that Saban and Dooley are friends or this could be a 63-7 shellacking

You think CDD will back off, huh..?

klrigsby#1377153 writes:

Living here in Lexington i have to put up with lots of ragging from the boys and girls in blue that is till the last Saturday in November but the local paper has the Tide by 30, thats nuts. Does anyone know the last time our guys were a 30 point underdog if ever ?

snakeplissken writes:

From reading the comments on here it appears that most Tennessee fans have given up, and I understand. I never dreamed I'd see the day that our program had fallen so far down that we would be 30+ point underdogs, being the butt of jokes from all the SEC teams fans, having no respect from opponents, and depending on the mercy of an Alabama coach (who recommended our coach) to not score a 100 points on us.

Saban_Palin writes:

in response to NashvillePreds:

DYK: A bama degree is only recognized as being accredited in certain municipalities located throughout northern alabama?

GO VOLS

Does that silly comment help ease the pain of being a cellar dweller favored to lose a rivalry game by 30 points?

CantStandCantStandSaban writes:

in response to Saban_Palin:

Does that silly comment help ease the pain of being a cellar dweller favored to lose a rivalry game by 30 points?

Favored to lose?

...interesting.

285exp writes:

in response to NashvillePreds:

Wow.
Too bad a huge component of those rankings is reflected in state funding.
Due to the backwards culture of bama politics, those boys in the capital fall over backwards to give money they don't have to a university that produces lackluster students.
Average ACT score at Tennessee is 27.
Is the ACT required to attend Alabubba?
How's the Bham bankruptcy going?

GO VOLS

http://collegeapps.about.com/od/theac...

Your evidence that Alabama produces lackluster students? Other than your obvious prejudice that is.

The Birmingham bankruptcy is the result of incompetence and corruption in Birmingham, and has nothing to do with the quality of education at UA.

Roll Tide

Vol_USArmy_Soldier writes:

We know that we've truly reached a Vandy level of sorry when the only thing that we have left to bash Alabama fans is our alleged academnic superiority.

I don't expect to win, but 30 points??? What the...?! Aren't we Division 1-A? End this misery called "Season 2011." Now.

And Buck Fama. GBO.

VolGrad writes:

My gut says, Palardy hits 4 of 6 field goals, and Tennessee scores late to make it 19-42.

Then, there's that fanatical part of me that wants to say upset city, 19-17 Schmack!

Go Vols! Beat Bama!!!

tntorbett writes:

Here's a slightly off topic question; with Marsalis Teague being pulled from the starting line-up at corner, why not transition him back over to WR where he could be quite helpful since we still don't have a solid 2??

TeeTRUTH writes:

I think one thing the defense can do to confuse the Alabama Offense is put Math problems on their Jerseys.

Fax writes:

This just in:

Bama --117
UT -- (- 3); but Dooley will turn it around soon, as all of these fools proclaim. :))

I for one blame Fulmer for the last three years, even though...well you know, Lane and all were to fix it, and then Dooley in Year 0, and then Dooley in Year 1 (when is year 2 1?) and, well you, even though Fulmer's Brigade almost won the damn thing in 2007 (that would be the year before y'all had him fired, hater.)

But other than that, it is definitely, without a doubt, Fulmer's fault. Damn loser (who won the first BCS and has one of the all-time winners record by percentage). But hell, who does he think he his, Jo_pa? (Who has NEVER won a BCS C-Plate)

Dang POS Fulmer. I blame you for setting such a high standard for these losers that followed.

~exit stage RIGHT

TeeTRUTH writes:

in response to Fax:

This just in:

Bama --117
UT -- (- 3); but Dooley will turn it around soon, as all of these fools proclaim. :))

I for one blame Fulmer for the last three years, even though...well you know, Lane and all were to fix it, and then Dooley in Year 0, and then Dooley in Year 1 (when is year 2 1?) and, well you, even though Fulmer's Brigade almost won the damn thing in 2007 (that would be the year before y'all had him fired, hater.)

But other than that, it is definitely, without a doubt, Fulmer's fault. Damn loser (who won the first BCS and has one of the all-time winners record by percentage). But hell, who does he think he his, Jo_pa? (Who has NEVER won a BCS C-Plate)

Dang POS Fulmer. I blame you for setting such a high standard for these losers that followed.

~exit stage RIGHT

Wheres Phulmer at now, he cant even find a job !!! Maybe he can mow Dooleys yard this summer. Its idiots like you that have no idea about football, that give real fans a bad name. Rome wasnt built in a day!!!

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