Forget the fumbles

Good cornerbacks develop tough skin and short memories, and those traits are serving Tennessee's Eric Gordon quite well these days.

Gordon made two glaring special-teams mistakes in the first half of Saturday's game at Georgia - fumbling on a kickoff return and muffing a punt that the Bulldogs parlayed into a pair of short-field touchdowns en route to a 41-14 romp.

Showing his resilience, however, Eric Gordon bounced back and displayed his usual upbeat personality following Tuesday's practice. That's what guys with tough skins and short memories do.

"Athletes are going to have a bad game," he said, grinning broadly, "and you've just got to deal with it."

Obviously, the redshirt freshman has dealt with it quite well. He might not be so philosophical, though, if head coach Derek Dooley hadn't allowed him to continue fielding kicks after the two mishaps.

"Yeah, that says a lot," Gordon conceded. "If he wouldn't have put me back in, I don't know what the rest of that day would've been like. But him putting me back out there gave me the momentum to make me feel like I could take one back."

Gordon's first mishap occurred with Georgia leading 10-0 in the first quarter. Fielding a kickoff at the 8-yard line, he zoomed 30 yards upfield. Just as it appeared he might break into the clear, however, he was stripped of the football. Georgia recovered at the Vol 41-yard line.

"The guy was coming at me, and I was about to turn my speed on and switch hands," Gordon recalled. "They (coaches) said you can't switch hands in the middle of traffic, and somebody hit it (football) at the right time ... right as I was switching hands."

That mistake could be chalked up to aggressiveness. His next one was due to indecisiveness.

"The muffed punt I actually called for a fair catch, and I should've just caught it," he said. "I was looking at the (coverage) guy and the ball, debating if I could get it without him tackling me, and I just got there too late."

Because he was still moving when the ball arrived, Gordon bobbled it into the air ... right into the waiting arms of Georgia's Blake Sailors at the Tennessee 37-yard line. Because Gordon signaled for a fair catch, Sailors was guilty of interference but the officials failed to make the call.

"It didn't hit the ground," Gordon said. "I muffed it, and he caught it. He's got to give me room, you know?"

Asked if the first mishap was still on his mind when he committed the second one, Gordon shook his head emphatically.

"Not at all. Man, you got to brush plays off," he said. "You got to have thick skin at cornerback anyway, so I just try to brush things off and make another play."

Gordon's teammates helped him bounce back mentally by offering considerable moral support.

"It was all positive from my teammates," he said. "There was no negative energy. Those guys give me more and more confidence as a player."

Still, after two special-teams fumbles in one game, Gordon knows he may have to re-prove himself to Vol coaches.

"Kind of sort of," he said. "But I feel like they know what I can do when I get it in my hands."

Although he was an outstanding punt returner during his career at Nashville's Hillsboro High School, Gordon admits that he had a few misadventures back then, too.

"I actually dropped a couple," he said, "but I always got on it and always made a play off of it."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories