Can UT slow down Auburn's horses?

If Tennessee couldn't control South Carolina freshman tailback Demetris Summers Saturday night at Neyland Stadium, how do the Vols expect to handle Auburn's stable of thoroughbreds this weekend on The Plains?

Summers shredded the Big Orange defense for 156 yards on 27 carries, despite being limited by fatigue and inexperience. Tennessee prevailed 23-20 in overtime, but a similarly inept defensive performance could be fatal against an Auburn ground game that features the talented tailback quartet of Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, Tre Smith and Brandon Jacobs.

After reviewing the UT-South Carolina game films, Vol head man Phillip Fulmer conceded during his Sunday teleconference that his team's poor defensive play is a major concern. Time after time, Summers appeared to be bottled up, only to cut back or bounce outside and find substantial running room.

''One area we have to address is some of the disciplines on defense, gap responsibilities and the like,'' Fulmer said. ''It was more a matter of being out of gap than anything. Certainly, the tackling wasn't as crisp as we would want it to be but it was more a matter of him (Summers) finding spots to come out that shouldn't have been there.''

Because of the gaping holes Summers occasionally found, it appeared that Carolina's offensive front whipped Tennessee's defensive front regularly. Fulmer says that wasn't the case, however.

''We didn't get knocked back much,'' he said. ''They (Gamecocks) just did a great job picking up our movements. Still, it wasn't one of our best days.''

Converted end J.T. Mapu started at defensive tackle and played OK, the head man said.

''J.T.'s playing hard,'' Fulmer noted. ''It's much more physical in there (tackle) but he's holding his own. That's all we're doing in there (tackle) is holding our own.''

As disappointed as the Vols' top dog was with his defense, he wasn't a whole lot happier with the offense's showing vs. Carolina.

''We need to get the quarterback and receivers on the same page, seeing the same things,'' he said. ''The running backs missed some holes. We were inconsistent there. The offensive line played well but we missed some things.''

Although he was SEC Offensive Player of the Week a week earlier, No. 2 tailback Jabari Davis carried just four times for 12 yards vs. Carolina. Cedric Houston, meanwhile, carried 24 times for 86 yards. Asked why Davis got so few touches, Fulmer replied, ''We never really got into a true flow of the game. We got Jabari in early but probably needed to get him in there a little more.''

Asked why spring sensation Gerald Riggs Jr. never saw the field of play, Fulmer responded, ''He's been out for quite a while (ankle injury) and I'm not sure he's 100 percent back yet.''

Tennesseee scored touchdowns on its first two possessions of the Carolina game, although one of these capped a mere 10-yard drive following a blocked punt. Afterward, the Vol attack was a no-show, producing only a fourth-quarter field goal the remainder of regulation.

Tennessee's offense finally returned to life in overtime. Four Houston runs moved the ball from the 25-yard line to the 4, then Casey Clausen hit James Banks with the game-winning touchdown pass.

''We blocked more crisply and ran more crisply in overtime,'' Fulmer conceded. ''And the three-wide (sets) helped us on some things.''

After the game, Clausen hinted that the Vols had some early success with the three-wide alignment, then inexplicably abandoned it.

''We had some success, then we had some difficulties with it,'' Fulmer said. ''If your quarterback's comfortablde in it, though, that's a good start.''

Overall, Fulmer seemed somewhat disappointed with Saturday night's performance as he dissected it.

''I thought we were headed in a really good direction,'' he said, pausing thoughtfully before adding, '' ... and I still think we are. But I would've liked to take a better step (vs. Carolina). I hoped we would take control of that game ... not win in dramatic style.''

The silver lining, of course, is that Tennessee played poorly but still prevailed. Winning ugly still beats losing pretty.

''You're going to have those (ugly wins),'' Fulmer said. ''The kids hung in at the end and showed a lot of character. I'm proud of them for that. They seemingly know how to win.''

The head man suggested Saturday night that his troops may have left some of their emotion on Florida Field a week earlier. Reviewing the Carolina game film tended to confirm that opinion.

''We were excited about playing but not as emotionally charges as we have been at other times in the season,'' Fulmer said. ''And we NEED to be emotional. We're going to get everybody's best shot, so we need to give them OUR best shot.''

That's especially true against an Auburn team that has rung up 40-plus points against Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky after losing its first two games to Southern Cal and Georgia Tech.

''When you score in the 40s and the other team isn't scoring much at all, that's good,'' Fulmer deadpanned. ''I don't know if we could score 45 points against air right now.''


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