Defense must make their own luck

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Dan Mullen has Mississippi State playing nearly mistake-free football in his fourth year in Starkville.

The 5-0 Bulldogs have been all but flawless on offense in 2012, allowing a league-leading three sacks (tied with Tennessee) and only turning over the football three times, behind only Alabama (1).

Their consistent play creates a unique challenge of making big plays for Tennessee defense coordinator Sal Sunseri and the Volunteers.

"It is hard," Vol coach Derek Dooley said. "They play — their philosophy is sound — fundamental football. They grind teams out. That is what they do. The important thing is that you can't get frustrated. You have to play every play and if you play that way, opportunities will come and when they come you have to take advantage of them."

Defense lineman Maurice Couch feels that Sunseri will have the Vols schemed up to give themselves an opportunity to limit big plays Saturday.

"Coach Sal is going to put us in the best position to make plays," Couch said Tuesday. "As far as up front, we have to physically be tough and get to them mentally. We have to get them bent out of shape and create plays on our own to get to the quarter."

State's potent rushing attack (179 yards per game) also provides a helping hand in their passing attack with play-action, which could create havoc in the Tennessee back end, especially with freshman LaDarrell McNeil slated to make his first start.

"They use play action to keep a lot of guys off of the quarterback," Couch said. "We are going to have to adjust to that as well."

The Vols have had their chance to make big plays in 2012, especially when it comes to fumbles, which they have failed to fall on in several tough games, including losses to Florida and Georgia.

"We had a few games this year where we had a bunch of fumbles, but we didn't come up with a lot of them," Couch said. "That is something we are going to have to do to win the game."

Linebacker Jacques Smith says it will be crucial to get the Bulldogs into third-and-long situations to ensure success.

"You have to force them to make mistakes and also we have to force ourselves to not make mistakes," Smith said Tuesday. "Also we have to hone in on certain plays that are allowing us to be either schemed or tricked on.

"We have to eliminate those plays and make them go to different things. If we can get them to throw the ball and get them in third-and-long, I think we can be successful."

Watch as Dooley addressed the media following Tuesday's practice at Haslam Field:

Linebacker Jacques Smith talks to the media about the Vols upcoming game with Mississippi State:

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