That was the most pertinent number of the game, without question.
Tennessee rushed the football 28 times and netted 0, that's zero, yards.
"I didn't think they could run the ball on us and when you make a team one-dimensional, that usually has positive results for the defense," said D-Coordinator Dave Wommack. "Our defensive line was dominant again, which made a huge difference for the linebackers and the coverage guys.
"Going into the game, I thought the mismatch we had was our DL against their offensive line and that proved true. They couldn't run the ball and we were getting pressure on the quarterback when they had to throw. The pressure forced three interceptions and that was basically the game - no rushing yards and three turnovers."
Freshman Defensive End Marquis Haynes led the way in the pass rush. He was credited with 2.5 QB sacks and a forced fumble that UT recovered.
"Marquis has so much speed off the edge and he is a lot stronger than he looks. He is not just a pass rusher. He can play the run well - he's physical, but his forte is that he is a great pass rusher," Dave continued. "When you combine that with C.J. (Johnson) on the other side and Carlos Thompson at times, we have three really fine sped rushers.
"Then you throw in our heavier guys like Channing Ward, Fadol (Brown) and John Youngblood and you
suddenly had a lot of options at DE where we didn't have any last year. Those guys are all coming in fresh and all have roles and when you put them out there against offensive linemen who have played 50-60-70 snaps, they just have a huge edge."
Marquis has developed through excellent coaching from DL Coach Chris Kiffin, for sure, but Wommack takes it a step further.
"What I love about this team is that the older guys have really taken the younger guys under their wings and want them to succeed. There is not selfishness or jealousy. They compete, but they want each other to do well," he stated. "They are the ultimate team right now."
The Vols didn't fare much better in the air.
"I think they completed a decent amount of passes, but nothing that really hurt us. They had just 191 yards in the air," Dave continued. "We also had three interceptions. Anytime you hold an opponent to 191 yards of total offense and cause three turnovers, you should be in pretty good shape."
CB Senquez Golson had two picks on the night to raise his total to seven on the year. CB Mike Hilton had the other one.
"Senquez plays with such good technique. He's always in the right position. You know, he never got beat much last year, but he didn't make some picks he probably should have. This year he is making those plays," Wommack said. "And we have talked so much about Mike and the job he has done, you run out of adjectives. All the guys in the secondary are competing for the ball and I think they are really seeing the field better than they ever have and they have their eyes in the right places 99% of the time.
"But I'll tell you this - they have all gained a benefit on the back end of the defense because of what the front guys are doing. That constant pressure is making the pipe bust with quarterbacks."
Back to the run defense, Wommack said that's always number one on the goal sheet.
"We preach it every Sunday. If you can stop the run, you are going to win a lot of games and get off the field. If we stop the run, we are good enough in pass coverage to either force a turnover or get off the field," h closed.
Zero is the pertinent number. . . .
It took the offense a little over a quarter and a half to get going, but once they figured out what UT was doing on defense, they exploded, scoring 34 unanswered points.
"We prepared all week long for the looks they had shown all year. We felt we had their tendencies figured out to a tee and then they came out in something they had not shown all year," said OC Dan Werner. "They have talented players and when they threw us that curve, it took some time for us to figure it out and for us to execute against it.
"I mean they went totally away from everything they have done. They had been a man coverage team and they went to two-high and some blitzes we had not seen all year. It was a great plan on their part that threw us of for a little while."
When the Rebel coaches did figure UT out and the players started executing, it was all she wrote.
"Bo (Wallace) managed the game beautifully again and protected the ball. He has not had a turnover in four SEC games and that is music to my ears," Dan stated. "The way our defense is playing, if we protect the ball, we have a real good chance to win the game."
The Rebels went pretty conservative early on trying to figure out UT's defensive plan, but once they did, they went tempo and scored twice before the half.
"We took advantage of a short field and then when we started going fast, saw they were going man on Vince Sanders and he hit him twice for our first score," noted Werner. "Bo made a great play on the first one because they gave us a blitz we hadn't seen and he escaped the pressure and made a heckuva throw."
The Rebels had a hard time running the ball again, but again the threat of the run was there and it eventually opened up some passing lanes.
"Sometimes when the run is not going, we are going to stay with it because we are setting up some other plays," he explained. "If you don't have the threat of a run game, you can get yourself in trouble. When we rush for 150 yards or more, and I think we had 180 tonight, we can usually score points because defenses have to play us honest.
"We changed our blocking scheme in the second quarter and went to more read option stuff and I think that opened things up for us."
Werner said there was never a sense of frustration on the part of the offensive coaches or players because they have been schooled well not to panic.
"Look, when you go against our defense every day in August and then a couple of days a week during game weeks, you can't afford to get frustrated. If you did, you'd never get anything accomplished. We learned going against our defense that you have to have patience and thing will pop sooner or later if you don't panic or get frustrated," he explained.
The Rebels stayed behind the chains a lot in the first half, but that changed in the second half.
"Like I said, when we changed our blocking scheme and ran more read type run plays, we were OK," he closed.
The Rebels ended with 383 yards of offense. Considering the first quarter and a half, not bad, not bad at all.
Now the Rebels are 7-0 and still humming.
"It doesn't get any easier. We feel great where we are, but we are still in the middle of the gauntlet and now we have to travel to play LSU," Wommack stated. "We are proud of what we have done, but we know how much more there is to do."
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