Derek Dooley breaks down the Vols' performance against Montana
When he discussed Tennessee's struggle to run the ball effectively against Montana moments after the Vols wrapped up their rout, Derek Dooley singled out the offensive line, which was "whipped" at the line of scrimmage.
In hindsight, it wasn't just the five guys up front, Dooley said at his weekly news conference Monday.
It was everybody.
"It always starts with coaching, but the offensive line didn't play as well as they're capable of, we didn't block on the perimeter like we're capable at receiver and the runners didn't run consistently enough with that commitment," Dooley said. "That word 'commitment' is what I thought we lacked in the run game."
The Vols certainly didn't stray away from it Saturday, even when it was truly going nowhere.
UT ran the ball 46 times for 128 yards and attempted just 25 passes for 311 yards. Give back the 21 yards taken away for the three sacks it surrendered and the numbers don't look as ugly, but UT still only managed just shy of 4 yards per carry.
Players throughout Monday's media gathering fell in line with Dooley, providing a variety of reasons why the Vols' ground game never got off the ground.
"The last two seconds of the play, if we strain just a little bit harder, I feel like Tauren (Poole) and Marlin (Lane) and those guys can get a couple more yards just off of us straining a little harder," tight end Mychal Rivera said.
"We have to work on cleaning up some things," center James Stone said. "As a group we didn't communicate like we should have communicated."
Even fullback Channing Fugate put some of the blame on himself.
"There are a couple of blocks where I have to work on my technique a lot," he said. "I have to go to practice this week and work on that stuff every day."
Unlike Saturday's opponent, Cincinnati, which ran for 387 yards against Austin Peay, the Vols didn't exactly match up with an overwhelmed defense. Montana, which started four seniors on the defensive line, presented a number of different looks throughout the game and even played in a 3-4 formation at times.
Still, Dooley said, there were "no excuses" from a performance like Saturday's. Just players to hold accountable.
"Every team is going to come in and do some different things," Dooley said. "With experience, they were a little bit hesitant and it showed."
For the five players who were "whipped on the line of the scrimmage," Sunday's film session with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand was business as usual, Stone said.
How the Vols spent a rain delay
Hiestand didn't need to raise his voice because "he's always pretty animated."
"He let us know everything was correctable," Stone said.
Health Report: UT escaped its first game of the season with only one minor injury, Dooley said.
Defensive tackle Maurice Couch, who sat out most of the fourth quarter against Montana, is "day to day" with a sprained knee.
Defensive end Ben Martin, who was seen with a bag of ice on his ankle as he sat on the bench near the end of the game, said Monday he wasn't hurt, but was simply done for the game and was told to "ice it down."
"Everything's good," he said.
Dooley said freshman Devrin Young, who broke his collar bone in early August, will be re-evaluated next week. Young continues to catch punts at practice, but has yet to face contact.
Linebacker Herman Lathers recently had two screws removed from his broken left ankle and will likely be out for the next four to six weeks.
"We hope by the second half of the season he can come in and get back in it," Dooley said.
Fumble Trouble: With heavy rain in the forecast all week, the Vols won't have any shortage of opportunities to work on the "wet ball" drills they couldn't get to all throughout a dry August.
The stormy weather couldn't have come at a better time, especially after a six-fumble effort against Montana that Dooley labeled as "inexcusable."
UT recovered all six fumbles, but that didn't make watching the film any easier.
"The weather doesn't cause it. It's poor fundamentals," Dooley said. "Sometimes you get away with poor fundamentals when everything's perfect or you don't get it hit right. I'm A, glad that we saw it and B, really happy that it didn't come back to haunt us.
"If those would have been six turnovers, this would have been a whole different ballgame."
Fugate admitted the early-practice fumble drills can get a bit "lackadaisical" at times. That certainly won't be the case when the Vols return to the practice field today, he said.
"We're going to work on it a lot this week," Fugate said. "We need to hold onto the ball a lot better than we did Saturday."