Tennessee defense rebounds after ugly first half only to succumb in final drive

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott (15) runs the ball as Tennessee defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore (94) tries to stop him in the second quarter at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott (15) runs the ball as Tennessee defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore (94) tries to stop him in the second quarter at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Time of possession usually isn't a big concern of Tennessee's offense, which prides itself on operating at a breakneck pace.

But it became a big concern for the Vols' beleaguered defense in the first half Saturday night at Davis Wade Stadium.

The Vols couldn't overcome a sluggish first half in a 41-31 loss to No. 19 Mississippi State. The Vols (3-3, 0-3 SEC) remain winless against ranked opponents in coach Derek Dooley's three-year tenure, while Mississippi State (6-0, 3-0) is a win over Middle Tennessee State away from being undefeated for a much-anticipated matchup against No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 27.

The Vols' defense has struggled before this season, but the problems on Saturday were exacerbated by a UT offense that never developed a rhythm until after halftime.

Even when the Vols reached the end zone in the first half, it didn't always provide a respite for the defense. Cordarrelle Patterson's 98-yard kickoff return, while exhilarating, also immediately put the defense back on the field.

Tennessee trailed 27-14 at the break, and the defense spent nearly three-fourths of those 30 minutes on the field.

When the offense awoke in the third quarter, it removed a huge burden for the defense. The second half was markedly different from the first snap. Tennessee started by moving 62 yards for a field goal in a drive that ate up four minutes. Then the Vols' defense answered with a three-and-out on Mississippi State first drive.

Mississippi State wide receiver Chad Bumphis (1) fights off an attempted tackle by Tennessee defensive back Justin Coleman after a short pass reception in their NCAA college football game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis

Mississippi State wide receiver Chad Bumphis (1) fights off an attempted tackle by Tennessee defensive back Justin Coleman after a short pass reception in their NCAA college football game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

After Tennessee scored a touchdown, UT defensive tackle Darrington Sentimore started Mississippi State's second drive of the second half by sacking quarterback Tyler Russell for an 8-yard loss. Another three-and-out followed for a Mississippi State team that had moved the ball with ease in the first half.

Deep into the third quarter, UT's defensive players found themselves in an unusual situation: They were well-rested.

The difference showed. In the first half, the Bulldogs collected 293 yards of total offense and 19 first downs in nearly 23 minutes of offense. In the second half, Mississippi State controlled the ball for only about 14 minutes and gained 157 yards (almost all in the fourth quarter).

Mississippi State actually gained more yards on the first play of the fourth quarter (a 21-yard run by LaDarius Perkins) than it did in the entire third quarter.

The Bulldogs didn't reach the end zone in the second half until a turnover was gifted by Tennessee. Johnthan Banks stripped Vols running back Devrin Young and the Bulldogs recovered on UT's 30. Within moments, they were in the end zone with a 34-24 lead.

But it was Mississippi State's final possession in which that newfound defensive edge was desperately needed. Tennessee urgently needed a stop to stay in the game, but the defense failed to answer.

As the Vols burned through timeouts, Mississippi State kept converting first downs. Rather than attempt a field goal on fourth down in the closing seconds, Mississippi State tested Tennessee's defense. Russell found Malcolm Johnson in the back of the end zone to finish off the Vols and deal a final indignity to the Tennessee defense that had seemed to be making strides after halftime.

In their three SEC games, the Vols have now allowed 62 second-half points, 129 points overall and 1,565 total yards of offense.

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Comments » 37

Raleigh writes:

And you thought I was a bad baseball coach.....HA Dooley is the worst!

Gmoney58 writes:

2 weeks to prepare. Unacceptable.
Part ways with CDD Mr. Hart, or get the HELL out!

TheFuj writes:

2 weeks to prepare. Defense looked tired on State's 2nd drive. Had a few good moments, but way to inconsistent and really just not tough.
Just hard to watch.

jack4444 writes:

They don't play for Dooley, that's for sure. I'm ready for Justin Hunter to go, he's just playing for himself. Bray may care but his production in conference is not even average. The defense is awful beyond description and the kicking game, Derek's baby, is an embarrassment. They got some talent, more than MSU, but they are a poor football team. The errors they made Dooley's first year are still there. Here we go again.

bspurlingcac#225603 writes:

The two drives in the second quarter were Chaney called for deep ball instead of going for a higher percentage short pass cost us dearly. We had to put a tired defense back on the field and put our Vols in a huge hole. We can't catch a break...and we can't seem to make our own. I do believe this team is better than its record show. Dooley's big test is keeping them playing hard with all the negatives that will be coming from the fans etc. Go Vols...Never give up!

Rock85 writes:

Giving up 41 is a rebound?

BigOrangeSports writes:

I have to agree with Jack. Hunter is already in the NFL. Playing soft and doesn't want to take a chance to hurt himself. We all know CP is gone after this season. Bray had a pretty good game and if he continues playing well, he will be gone also. I am glad to see that Palardy has hopefully screwed his head on straight and keeps it that way. His kicks looked pretty good. What's sad is what will this team look like next year after losing the heart of our offense? We can probably watch next Saturday's game in Tuscaloosa and find out.

BigOrangeSports writes:

Saturday's game is in Knoxville. Maybe I need to get my head screwed on straight, too.

vol98champ writes:

I have been watching UT sports for over 60 years. This team reminds me of Jerry Green's basketball era; talent but no core belief, no grit, and no determination to find a way to win. It also reminds me of Bill Battle's last year; almost total fan disgust, poor coaching, and no hope of beating a good team. When was the last time this team made a play when we had to have it to win? Instead, they fail to make it and we loose.

therightstuff writes:

Waggner jumping up signaling "incomplete" is embarrassing being the DB's had been burnt bad all night.....burnt really really bad. Guess trashing goes on even when you are down 10 and eventually give up 41. Like the way "CP" scores and hands the ball to the ref....class and the kid is a gamer for sure.

cloudodust writes:

Not saying Tennessee's rebounding from the Hammy Era is taking too long, but the way things have shaped up, maybe Appalachian ST will pay UT to come into Boone next year as their Homecoming opponent. It's taken a minimum of 2 and 1/2 years but I'm becoming a bit disgruntled with the Athletic Department's effort to reshape the face of Tennessee football, top to bottom, north and south. As always, GBO...

TrouserCough writes:

He should have been fired after Ky last year but so many of you "real fans" said we non fans were crazy. Baaaa, baaaa.

tennisvol writes:

One of the worst defenses in the history of UT football.

atnvol#283282 writes:

This is just very painful....no progress and what will happen next week?....another repeat of Alabama fans outnumbering Vol fans in Neyland ala 2008.....this was the backbreaker and fans have lost all hope. I wanted Dooley to succeed but it is not going to happen. I dread going thru another coaching change, but it has to be done.

Severe nausea in Sevierville.

orangeintampa writes:

This is by far the worst defense we have had in the past 20 years. We have way to much talent to get burned like we do week in and week out.Something has to change or we are going to be worse than last year. Lets hope we can get past Troy so we do not go 4-8.

TrouserCough writes:

Who was the better quarterback? Dooley let him get by with putting nothing into but his talent and rightfully it will get him fired.

smokysbark writes:

in response to bspurlingcac#225603:

The two drives in the second quarter were Chaney called for deep ball instead of going for a higher percentage short pass cost us dearly. We had to put a tired defense back on the field and put our Vols in a huge hole. We can't catch a break...and we can't seem to make our own. I do believe this team is better than its record show. Dooley's big test is keeping them playing hard with all the negatives that will be coming from the fans etc. Go Vols...Never give up!

Dead on ... when Chaney called the post on a 3rd and 1 I just dropped my head. The offensive line got good push for 4 quarters. I just don't understand why we don't play the percentages, like you said in your post.

I haven't given up just yet but it's very hard to watch a team with absolutely no attention to detail. The defensive ends and outside backers have GOT to be more disciplined in their assignments.

One last thing ... how in the he11 has Tyler Bray not figured out how fast Hunter is at this point on that slant route? He has missed that throw a dozen times and at least four of those errant throws would have gone for six. It's maddening!!

iowavol writes:

One word describes UT football - sad.

The defense is so confused you can only point in one direction - coaching. We don't have the best athletes, but we have good ones. Half way through the second quarter, Sunseri was on the side line making sure the linebackers knew what they were supposed to do - half way through the second quarter in the sixth game of the year after a week extra to prepare. I've never witnessed a more unprepared unit.

Offensively, loved the opening gameplan. Worked to perfection. And then what? Seriously? Again, we have an offensive coordinator that looks like he is guessing at what to do next.

Everyone's got Bray figured out. Hit him a few times - a very few times - and he gets rattled. He's got guts, plays hurt, but looks awful in clutch situations. He is locking down on the long ball, stares down the short throw and will toss the ball out of bounds with no one around him.

This team has zero confidence. Mail in the rest of the year. Play the guys who are going to be here next year and let them get some game experience. The expectations will be so low that they can only gain confidence from the knowledge that it just can't possibly get any more pathetic than it is.

joevol33 writes:

I hate to say this, but my biggest fear for ut football is that they somehow by luck beat bama next week. Then they will freak out and give dooley a big extension cause he beat #1 bama

hooverd283#563729 writes:

31 points should win in this league every Saturday.

knoxchatter writes:

in response to joevol33:

I hate to say this, but my biggest fear for ut football is that they somehow by luck beat bama next week. Then they will freak out and give dooley a big extension cause he beat #1 bama

Relax man..no need to work yourself into a dither...I don't think you have anything at all to be worried about.

joevol33 writes:

in response to knoxchatter:

Relax man..no need to work yourself into a dither...I don't think you have anything at all to be worried about.

true

crappieking writes:

Dooley is terrible.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to therightstuff:

Waggner jumping up signaling "incomplete" is embarrassing being the DB's had been burnt bad all night.....burnt really really bad. Guess trashing goes on even when you are down 10 and eventually give up 41. Like the way "CP" scores and hands the ball to the ref....class and the kid is a gamer for sure.

Iam not much of a defensive mind but this is the maybe the worst secondary at UT I have ever seen.. I did notice they pressed the WR's a little more this game but out of any 10 passes maybe one pass is well covered..Ansley and Conklin should be out on their rears for taking an average group and making them worse

jack4444 writes:

How about the kicking game, aside from CP?

- A 14 yard punt
- 6 men on the line of scrimmage negates a 49 yard punt
- A time out for FG defense!
- A roughing the kicker penalty
- A kick off out of bounds
- A fumbled punt
- A totally botched pooch kick

And this 2 1/2 years into David Shula's- I mean Derek Dooley's tenure. And the kicking game is supposed to be his forte, his area of expertise.

As painful as it's gonna be, he's gotta go.

Fall_Creek_Vols writes:

in response to jack4444:

How about the kicking game, aside from CP?

- A 14 yard punt
- 6 men on the line of scrimmage negates a 49 yard punt
- A time out for FG defense!
- A roughing the kicker penalty
- A kick off out of bounds
- A fumbled punt
- A totally botched pooch kick

And this 2 1/2 years into David Shula's- I mean Derek Dooley's tenure. And the kicking game is supposed to be his forte, his area of expertise.

As painful as it's gonna be, he's gotta go.

It was across the board. Remember the incomplete pass on 3rd & 1? Did we suddenly lose faith in our run game?

Get the 1st down first. Then, figure out when and how you're gonna throw it.

10SE writes:

It was 2nd and 1 before it was 3rd and 1. We have forgotten how to win.

OrangePride writes:

"REBOUNDS"?! Yee gads. Here's a better headline. DEFENSE COLLAPSES IN FOURTH PERIOD.....AGAIN! I am tired of trying to eat sugar coated garbage (wouldn't let me use the more appropriate word) and call it candy!

OrangePride writes:

in response to orangeintampa:

This is by far the worst defense we have had in the past 20 years. We have way to much talent to get burned like we do week in and week out.Something has to change or we are going to be worse than last year. Lets hope we can get past Troy so we do not go 4-8.

Could not agree more that there is just tooo much talent on that team to be THIS bad week after week. As far as Troy and the rest of this season goes, I do not have automatic W's up for ANY GAME THE REST OF THE YEAR
............INCLUDING KENTUCKY. To my mind, we are prohibitive underdogs the next two weeks, then toss ups with Troy and Kentucky, and finally an underdog to Vandy. Add in our TOTAL inability to fix ANYTHING and our superb ability to muck it up on the sidelines, and 4-8 looks to me a distinct possibility! But then what's the difference? 4-8; 5-7; even 6-6 with some Bottom-Feeder Bowl does not excite me. The year is pretty much a bust. Very Sad when you have this level of talent out there. Just wait til Hart see's this stadium over the next few weeks!

OrangePride writes:

in response to powerTbaby:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

For weeks, I have been with all those guys saying a coaching change only makes us worse. But I have to agree...worse than what? I said in a post to a different article, that it's recruiting that suffers first. But go look at the 2013 class? We are again at the bottom of the SEC and behind Vandy. Not sure we have alll that much at stake there either. Frankly, LR....I don't know of a single top-tier coach that is going to want to come into this mess right now. But hey, I think we struck gold with Cuonzo, so perhaps we can find another diamond in the rough. It is certainly worth the investigation. And just to throw out a name.......if interested at all, Cutcliff would be a name on my short list!

VolinCalif writes:

This title is a joke. What did our Off. play, 6 plays in the second qrt other than the two punts? We made every mistake a beginning team could make and then some. Just maybe our Off could have kept us close if we had ever got it on the field and maybe not. Could be the team is just trying to hard and thinking when they should be reacting, but whatever it is we sure need to get it fixed and right now.

VolQB writes:

Coaches and players need to learn how to win. Some of our game losing problems:
Offensive line dominating in first half but we throw twice on 3 and 1 for 30+ yard incompletions. Catch the ball poster boy Hunter?
Our def allowing a freshman QB to have a record game.. Sad. You keep expecting the D line getting into the backfield causing problems but it rarely happens.
Catch the Int Moore
Make an effort on a pouch kickoff. Any effort would have pushed the ball out of bounds.
I expect a good game vs Bama but again we do not execute maxims to win.

pcshowtime writes:

Thank you coach Dooley for switching to the 3-4 defense in year 3. If you would not have switched you might have won GA, FL or Miss st and we might have gave you a fourth year. Thanks for making decision easy.....

10SE writes:

in response to TrouserCough:

He should have been fired after Ky last year but so many of you "real fans" said we non fans were crazy. Baaaa, baaaa.

Wo we agree that things are not going well, but how would you like to explain to your next head coach that you only have two years to turn things around?

brokendownoldvol writes:

A team with pink shoes just stomped UT's defense into the dirt. Will the
misery ever end?

UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST writes:

The Gators are up to #3!

(who cares what happens the rest of the season....ut will not see #3 in any of our lifetimes)

EIGHT

orangeintampa writes:

in response to UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST:

The Gators are up to #3!

(who cares what happens the rest of the season....ut will not see #3 in any of our lifetimes)

EIGHT

Why Gator dude comes here tells me gator dude has no life remember gator fan what comes around goes around. South Carolina this week and if your lucky enough to make it to the SEC championship good luck against Alabama.I would rather suck than be a Gator. GO vols

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