Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said a review of defensive breakdowns in Saturday’s 51-44 loss at Georgia made him “madder than I’ve ever been,” but he was also encouraged by the growth of the Vols’ offensive line and running game.
“If this team stays together and stays the course — and I know they will — the results are going to come,” Dooley said Monday during a speech at the Knoxville Quarterback Club.
Dooley fielded questions for 40 minutes from the crowd at Calhoun’s on the River. The crowd was largely supportive.
“We’re behind you 100 percent,” one man told Dooley as he walked to his car. “I appreciate that very much,” Dooley replied.
The Vols (3-2, 0-2 SEC) are off this week before playing at No. 20 Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0) Oct. 13 in Starkville (TV: ESPN2, 9 p.m.) If MSU beats Kentucky this weekend, the Bulldogs will likely be the second of four consecutive Tennessee opponents ranked in the top 20 nationally.
Dooley, who is 0-12 against ranked opponents while at Tennessee, was snippy with reporters after Saturday’s game, believing they weren’t giving players enough credit for their progress.
“All I’ve ever wanted was that this team be measured on what they do and not on the sins of the past and how other teams have performed in the past,” Dooley said. “It’s probably why I was little jumpy given the criticism we were given prior to this game.”
While Dooley said the Vols are closer to turning a corner, he understands the frustration with the two league losses.
“It never happens when you want it to happen,” Dooley said. “It never goes on your timetable.”
Dooley said the defensive breakdowns in the first and third quarters were frustrating and perplexing, as the Vols made big stops in the second and fourth quarters on the same plays, using the same defense.
“It made me mad, madder than I’ve ever been,” Dooley said. “We need to be really upset at the way we performed.”
Dooley said young players would get a chance to compete for playing time during the off-week. He singled out freshman safety LaDarrell McNeil.
“He’s someone you guys are going to see a lot more of,” Dooley said.
Dooley said he was most pleased with the performance of the offensive line, which powered a successful running game while neutralizing Georgia’s fearsome defensive front.
“It looks like what we all want to see and what Tennessee fans have seen in the past,” Dooley said. “It was fun to watch. That’s a unit that has gone from being picked on and beat up on to being one of the best ones out there.”
One fan asked Dooley about CBS analyst Gary Danielson’s comments during the game that Tennessee was tipping its play-calls at the line of scrimmage and that he could tell when the Vols were going to run.
“It was a 200-yard rushing game against one of the top fronts in the nation,” Dooley said. “For next week, I’m probably going to send (Mississippi State coach) Dan (Mullen) our entire run-game package.”
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.