Offensive notebook

Tennessee's defense was on the field when LSU completed a 16-play, 61-yard touchdown drive that turned a 14-10 deficit into a 16-14 victory Saturday in Baton Rouge. But Tennessee's offense was equally responsible for the setback.

The Vol attack mustered just 217 net yards and squandered three scoring opportunities that could've made the Tigers' final drive a moot point:

1. A Janzen Jackson interception set up Tennessee at midfield five minutes into the game. The Vols advanced to a second-and-2 at LSU's 32-yard line but a pass to tailback Tauren Poole lost three yards and a sack lost eight more, giving the ball back to the Tigers at their own 43-yard line.

2. A diving interception by Nick Reveiz gave Tennessee the ball at its 38-yard line early in the third quarter. Tennessee advanced to a first-and-10 at the LSU 19 yard-line, then started going backwards. After an incompletion, a pass to Gerald Jones lost two yards. A sack on third-and-12 moved the ball from the 21-yard line to the 28 ... from which point Michael Palardy missed a 45-yard field goal that could've given the Vols a 10-7 lead.

3. Leading 14-10 with six minutes remaining, Tennessee had a golden opportunity to put the game on ice. Facing a second-and-two at the LSU 32-yard line, the Vols stalled - throwing a pass that nearly was intercepted on second down, gaining one yard on third down, then coming up empty on fourth down. LSU took over on downs and promptly drove 61 yards to the winning TD.

"Forget the end of the game," Vol tight end Luke Stocker said. "We had so many opportunities throughout the game to make big plays -- as an offense especially -- and we didn't do that. A big fourth down we didn't make put our defense in a tough spot.

"I think we out played them (Tigers) a lot of times. But when it counted they made the plays, so you give a lot of credit to LSU."


Most observers figured a UT offensive line featuring five new starters would struggle with pass protection this fall. Most observers were right.

Five weeks into the 2010 season Tennessee is allowing 3.8 sacks per game, a figure that ranks 117th among the 120 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Only Colorado State (4.2), Idaho (4.2) and Cincinnati (4.5) are doing a worse job of protecting their quarterbacks.

The Vols have surrendered 16 of their 19 total sacks in the past three weeks -- allowing 6 in game 3 vs. Florida, 5 in Game 4 vs. UAB and 5 more in Game 5 vs. LSU. All 16 of those sacks were endured by junior quarterback Matt Simms, who also has taken a like number of post-pass hits in recent weeks.

"Matt's as tough as they get among quarterbacks," Stocker said. "You have a ton of respect for a guy like that - keeps getting knocked down, keeps getting back up, and he's totally unfazed.

"I don't know how he gets hit as much as he does because I don't see it; I'm out there playing. But he don't act like anything ever happened. Then I go back and watch film the next day and I see how many hits he's taken. I've got a lot of respect for a guy like that."


Tennessee converted a season-best 46.7 percent (7 of 15) of its third-down tries vs. LSU. The previous best was 33 percent (5 of 15) vs. UT Martin in Game 1.

In between the Vols converted on just 2 of 15 vs. Oregon, 2 of 17 vs. Florida and 2 of 13 vs. UAB. That's a combined 6 of 45, which is 13.3 percent.

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