Defensive notebook

Tennessee's coaches didn't think Jeremiah Masoli could beat the Vols with his arm but figured he could beat them with his feet. That's why they put a "spy" on the Ole Miss quarterback Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

Even in obvious passing situations, the Big Orange had only three of its four defensive linemen rushing the QB. Still, the Vols recorded three sacks and a couple of hurries.

"The D-line, I think you're seeing progress each week," head coach Derek Dooley said. "We were really rushing three and spying one for the quarterback ... not letting him beat us with his feet."

The ploy worked. Masoli completed just 7 of 18 passes for 80 yards with three interceptions. He ran the ball seven times but netted just 22 yards.

"The defense did a phenomenal job of keeping him in the pocket, making him throw out of the pocket," Dooley said. "He didn't break contain. We just kept him jammed up in there. He's a special player and he can do a lot of things but we played fast and we took advantage of some opportunities that he gave us."


Say this much for Prentiss Waggner: He makes his interceptions count.

The Vols' junior cornerback has intercepted three passes this fall - returning each one for a touchdown. He returned a pick 54 yards in Game 1 vs. UT Martin and returned one nine yards for a score in Game 4 vs. UAB. Saturday's return was a 10-yarder that bumped Tennessee's lead to 38-14 and gave him UT's single-season record for pick-sixes.

So, what makes Waggner such a big-play magnet?

"Some guys have a knack," Dooley said. "I think Prentiss has a knack. He sees it (opportunity). If he gets a bead on the quarterback and the receiver and makes the right jump, he's there.

"Sometimes you can be too aggressive and give up the big play. But Prentiss seems to have a pretty good knack (for knowing when to be aggressive). He recovered both (Memphis) fumbles last week. There are guys that are just always around the football."

Waggner acted as if Saturday's pick was no big deal.

"We were in cover 4," he said, "and I think the receiver tried to run me off. But the D-line was getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback and I read the slip-screen play. The quarterback overthrew the running back, and I picked it off and took it to the end zone."


Junior linebacker Daryl Vereen made his first start for the Vols, opening at strongside linebacker in place of senior LaMarcus Thompson. He finished with 2 tackles and 1 assist. Vereen is the 22nd Vol to make his first career start this season. Thirteen of the first-timers have been on offense, eight on defense and one (kicker Michael Palardy) on special teams.


Tennessee held Ole Miss without a point in the final 30 minutes of Saturday's game. It was the first time the Vols have held an opponent an entire half without a point since the season-opening 50-0 defeat of UT Martin.

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