History lesson

Derek Dooley has a lot of similarities to his mentor, Nick Saban. Tennessee fans had better hope those similarities end this weekend.

Saban's fourth game as an SEC head coach was played Sept. 23, 2000. His LSU Tigers, reeling from a 34-17 league loss to Auburn, suffered a humbling 13-10 home-field setback to a lightly regarded UAB team.

Dooley's fourth game as an SEC head coach will be played this Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010. His Tennessee Vols, reeling from a 31-17 league loss to Florida, will be playing on their home field against a lightly regarded UAB team.

Because he was an assistant coach on Saban's 2000 LSU team, Dooley vividly recalls how gut-wrenching it was to lose at home to the unheralded Blazers.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," he said of that 10-year-old setback. "I actually laid in my bed last night going through that game."

The first-year Vol coach said he recalled LSU making six turnovers in that nightmarish outing. A check of the LSU record book showed his memory to be deadly accurate. The Tigers lost four interceptions and two fumbles during that ill-fated meeting with the Blazers.

"They had some good players," Dooley recalled. "They had some defensive linemen that we struggled to block; we were real thin upfront."

Like that 2000 LSU team, Tennessee is thin upfront and prone to turnovers. The Vols coughed up two interceptions and a fumble in last weekend's loss to Florida. And, like that 2000 LSU team, Tennessee struggles to convert on third down. The Tigers succeeded on just 4 of 18 tries in their loss to UAB. Tennessee converted on just 4 of 28 opportunities over its last two games.

Like the 2000 LSU team, Tennessee's pass rush is lame. The Tigers didn't manage a single sack vs. UAB 10 years ago. The 2010 Vols have just three sacks through three games.

Here's another similarity: Following the loss to UAB, Saban said: "The biggest thing we did was we shot ourselves in the foot too many times." Following the loss to Florida, Dooley noted that his team lost because of too many "breakdowns."

There is one significant difference between the 2000 LSU team and the 2010 Tennessee team, but it won't provide much comfort for Vol fans.

"What was different (in 2000) ... we had a lot of veteran playmakers," Dooley recalled. "We had (LaBrandon) Toefield and Domanick Davis at running back. We had Rohan Davey at quarterback. We had Josh Reed at receiver, who was a Biletnikoff (candidate)."

Even with those big-play weapons, LSU lost to the Blazers in 2000. Minus that level of veteran weapons, Tennessee conceivably could lose to the Blazers in 2010.

"They've got more experience, more depth," Dooley said. "They don't even have to bring their best to beat us. They can beat us even without their best. We have to worry about improving and minimizing the mistakes or we're going to be real disappointed after the game."

Just like Saban's LSU Tigers were after the 2000 UAB game.


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