The catalyst for this dramatic turnaround? LaMichael James' 72-yard touchdown run.
Finding his path blocked at right end, the Ducks' dynamic running back slipped a couple of tackles as he reversed his field, then outran the pursuit down the left sidelines. The play gave Oregon a 20-13 lead with 10:10 left in the third quarter but signaled the beginning of the end for the Vols. Although James is one of the NCAA's most explosive tailbacks, Derek Dooley insists that big play was inexcusable.
"The long run should never have happened," Tennessee's head man said. "We've got the guy hemmed up in the backfield for minus-five but we don't have our contain player (on the backside) where he's supposed to be and we can't rally to the ball and get the runner down."
Tennessee's lack of depth on defense has been fully chronicled. Saturday night it was fully exploited. As the game wore on Vol defenders wore down.
"We not very deep," Dooley conceded, "so we couldn't roll guys in like we would (prefer to)."
Whereas the lack of depth merely concerned the head man, the lack of focus among Vol defenders once Tennessee fell behind really upset him.
"You're going to have bad things happen; welcome to football," he said. "They (opponents) got coaches and they got players on scholarship. We act like we're supposed to be ahead and win every game and never give up a touchdown."
Here are some more observations on the Game 2 defensive effort:
- Sophomore cornerback Marsalis Teague made his first career start on defense an impressive one. The converted receiver recorded 6 tackles and a pass breakup.
- Safety Janzen Jackson shows signs of rounding back into form after missing much of preseason camp due to injury. The sensational sophomore recorded 5 tackles and a pass breakup.
- Where are the sacks? The Vols have just two sacks through the first two games. Montori Hughes had one in Game 1 and Williams recorded the Vols' only sack of Game 2.
- Freshman Michael Palardy handled UT's first kickoff of the game, suffered a groin pull in the process, then watched as senior Chad Cunningham handled that duty the rest of the game. Palardy's lone kickoff carried to the Oregon 4-yard line. Kenjon Barner returned it 39 yards but fumbled and Tennessee recovered.
- Cunningham had a feast-or-famine night as a punter. His worst effort, a 27-yarder, gave Oregon the ball at its 38-yard line with 1:55 left to halftime. The Ducks promptly scored to forge a 13-all tie. Cunningham's best punt, a booming 54-yarder in the fourth quarter, was returned 80 yards for a touchdown by Oregon's Barner. Cunningham finished his night with a gross average of 41.4 but a net average of just 30.9.