Defensive notebook

LSU doubled Tennessee in total yards, 434-217, but Vol defenders weren't sure the Tigers deserved to win Saturday's game at Baton Rouge 16-14.

When Tiger quarterback Jordan Jefferson fell on a botched snap at the LSU 17-yard line as the final gun sounded, apparently sealing a 14-10 Vol victory, Tennessee linebacker LaMarcus Thompson grabbed a UT flag and waved it in celebration.

"When you see Jefferson fumble the snap, you just feel the emotion of happiness ... the feeling of winning," Thompson said. "There's no greater feeling than winning - going through a battle for 60 minutes and getting that win in the last second. Then to have it stripped from you - it feels like it was stripped from you - it's worse than just losing outright. It's 10 times worse."

One minute after celebrating an upset of the NCAA's 12th-ranked team, Vol defenders were back on the field. Because Tennessee had 12 men on the field, LSU got a chance to run the final play a second time. This time the Tigers scored a touchdown to win 16-14.

Naturally, the Vols struggled to deal with the devastating turnabout. As a senior playing his final season of eligibility, Thompson's struggle was especially difficult.

"It's tough," he said. "Like I said, when you basically get a win taken from you, it's 10 times worse than just losing the game outright. This is going to test our character. Next week we just have to keep pushing and get better."

Asked how the Vols wound up with 12 men on the field, he replied: "We was goal-line at first, and we switched to base. I guess one of the guys didn't hear it. It's just one of those things that happens."

Sophomore safety Prentiss Waggner was one of three Vols inserted into the lineup for what should've been the game's final play. He even alerted his teammates that UT was changing personnel packages.

"We was in our goal-line package, then three (LSU) receivers came in, so Coach (defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox) called base," Waggner recalled. "I ran onto the field screaming 'base' and I thought we had the right personnel out there. Unfortunately, we didn't."

Although he missed the final nine games of 2009 with a torn ACL, senior middle linebacker Nick Reveiz called Saturday's loss "the biggest disappointment I've ever had in my life," subsequently adding: "I'll never forget this ... ever."

Making the loss especially troubling for Tennessee defenders was the fact they allowed LSU to convert third-and-13 and fourth-and-14 situations on the Tigers' game-winning 16-play TD drive.

"I know as a defense there's a lot of areas we can improve on," Reveiz said. "Them converting that fourth down was huge. We have to stop that. And we've got to do better on third down again."

Tennessee ranked ninth among the 12 SEC teams in third-down defense after allowing its first four opponents to convert 36.4 percent of the time. LSU converted 7 of 16 third-down opportunities, bumping the season average for Vol foes to 37.8 percent.

Being an optimist by nature, Reveiz managed to find a positive amidst the gloom.

"You've got to take the punches sometimes," he said. "The great thing is, we've got another opponent (Georgia) next week. We're still excited to play and we're going to bring the same intensity."


After recording just five turnovers in the first four games, Tennessee's defense registered four in Game 5. Thompson, Reveiz and safety Janzen Jackson recorded interceptions. End Malik Jackson caused and recovered an LSU fumble.

Thompson's interception was especially crucial, coming in the end zone to prevent a touchdown that would've given LSU a 17-14 fourth-quarter lead.

"It was a fake to the running back," Thompson said. "Then I seen him running the wheel route. I just ran after him, saw his eyes, then turned and looked for the ball ... and there it was."


The game could not have started any worse for Tennessee. LSU's first offensive play saw Jordan Jefferson slip a tackle attempt by Waggner and ramble 83 yards for a touchdown on a quarterback draw.

"The first play of the game we was in a little cover 4 scheme," Waggner said. "They had a quarterback read, I missed the tackle and, unfortunately, he made the play on me."


Reveiz posted his fourth consecutive double-digit tackle total, registering 11 stops and an interception. He registered 10 tackles in Game 2 vs. Oregon, 14 in Game 3 vs. Florida and 14 more in Game 4 vs. UAB.

Other busy defenders in the LSU game were:

Linebacker Herman Lathers (a Baton Rouge native) with 10 tackles

LaMarcus Thompson with 9 tackles and an interception

Cornerback Marsalis Teague with 8 tackles, 1 pass breakup

Safety Prentiss Waggner (a native of Clinton, La.) with 8 tackles, 1 pass breakup

Cornerback Art Evans with 8 tackles

Safety Janzen Jackson (a native of Lake Charles, La.) with 7 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass breakup, 1 hurry

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