Prugh upgraded; Vols struggling

The good news in the Tennessee football camp is that backup center Chuck Prugh is improving. The bad news is, the Vols aren't.

Prugh, hospitalized the past few weeks with a mysterious ailment that left him in intensive care, has been upgraded from critical to serious condition, UT head coach Phillip Fulmer said during his Sunday afternoon teleconference.

''He's still serious, but he's much improved,'' Fulmer said. ''He was sitting up and he spoke to me.... He's not out of the woods yet but he's doing much better.''

The Vol boss said Prugh's life-threatening illness apparently was a case of Mononucleosis that led to Pneumonia. Fulmer visited with Prugh's family earlier Sunday and said they all ''hugged and cried. To see a young man that close to death ... it's been tough.''

Some critics believe Tennessee's football program belongs on the critical list itself in the wake of Saturday night's 41-14 homefield loss to Georgia. The blowout, combined with lopsided losses in 2002 to Florida (31-13), Alabama (34-14), Miami (26-3) and Maryland (30-3) has some observers suggesting UT's program has slipped.

Fulmer, however, bristled at the suggestion that his program -- winner of a national title just five years ago -- is no longer capable of winning the big games.

''Big games are the ones you don't win ... right?'' he said. ''Florida used to be the big game. These things run in cycles. Right now we're in a cycle of trying to get back where we were. I think we will.''

The Vols have an open date this week, then visit Alabama Oct. 25. Although Tennessee's SEC title hopes are now a pipe dream, Fulmer says he isn't planning to discuss new goals with his team.

''Right now we're going to talk about beating Alabama -- pride, respect and all of the things that have been foundations of this program,'' he said.

Still, Fulmer is not happy with what he has seen in the past two weeks, as the Vols were manhandled by Auburn (28-21) and Georgia.

''I don't think we're nearly as physical as we're capable of being,'' the head man said. ''But when we've had our backs to the wall in the past we've responded.''

To ensure that the Vols respond this time, Fulmer said he will evaluate the possibility of making changes in ''personnel, philosophy, practice approach.''

Ultimately, the coach believes turnovers doomed his team Saturday night. The Vols lost two fumbles and two interceptions which led directly to 24 Georgia points. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, lost just one interception.

''You can't turn it over four times, give up points on each one of them, and win,'' he said.

Fulmer backed off from a statement he made moments after the game questioning his team's passion. He said Sunday his team played with plenty of passion and enthusiasm until a Casey Clausen fumble on third-and-goal at the Georgia 1-foot line was returned 92 yards for a Bulldog TD on the final play of the first half. That play turned a potential 14-13 UT lead into a 20-7 Georgia lead and clearly devastated the Vols.

Fulmer called that 14-point swing ''an emotional drain on the team,'' adding that he has ''never seen a turn in momentum as much as that one was.''

Clearly demoralized by that dramatic mishap, the Vols were blown off the field in the second half. Perhaps that was understandable.

''Kids are people,'' Fulmer said. ''But I would've liked for them to respond better.''

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