Vols to run more vs. Bama

Tennessee's coaching staff has decided that the best way to run the ball better is to run the ball MORE. That's the emphasis as the Vols prepare for Saturday's game at Alabama.

Tennessee's coaching staff has decided that the best way to run the ball better is to run the ball MORE. That's the emphasis as the Vols prepare for Saturday's game at Alabama. This might seem an odd strategy considering that: 1) Alabama ranks fifth among SEC teams in rushing defense but 10th in pass-efficiency defense 2) Tennessee gained just 65 rushing yards in its last two games combined -- 4 net yards on 16 rushes in Game 5 at Auburn and 61 yards on 27 attempts in Game 6 vs. Georgia. But head coach Phillip Fulmer has made clear his desire to run the ball this week, and offensive coordinator Randy Sanders has been echoing those sentiments. ''We haven't run it that many times the last few weeks,'' Sanders said. ''When we have run it, we haven't had that much success. We probably had more three-and-outs against Auburn and Georgia than at any other time this year. Part of that was that the run wasn't successful or we didn't hit the pass to stay on the field. ''The second thing is, we've gotten behind, and it's hard to stay committed to the run when you've got to play catch-up.'' Making matters even worse was the fact opposing offenses have run the ball so effectively the last three games that Tennessee's offense hasn't gotten many possessions. And, because Tennessee has forced just two fumbles in six games (ranking dead last in the SEC in that category), the offense rarely gets the ball in good field position. Still, Tennessee seems determined to run the ball Saturday at Tuscaloosa. ''We've got to commit to run it and have success when we do it,'' Sanders said. ''We've got to keep the score so that we're not behind in order to play that kind of game.'' Since Alabama knows Tennessee wants to establish the run early, it's a safe bet the Tide will crowd the line of scrimmage to stop the ground game. Thus, the Vols may have to throw to open up the run. ''They have a good front seven,'' Sanders said. ''They've got two big tackles in there (345-pound Ahmad Childress and 345-pound Anthony Bryant), and it's not like you're going to knock them around and move 'em. We're going to have to loosen 'em up. They're good enough that you don't just line up and say, 'Here we come,' and run it every time. But they're also good enough pass rushers that we can't throw every time and expect to get it protected. We're going to have mix it up on them pretty good -- throw some when they expect us to run and run some when they expect us to throw.'' Alabama has given up some points lately but Sanders points to Game 2 against top-ranked Oklahoma as evidence that the Tide's stop unit can be salty at times. ''They played Oklahoma awfully well, held Oklahoma to 20 points,'' Sanders said. ''Oklahoma hit a couple of deep balls and got the ball in good field position a time or two. Oklahoma didn't just line up and drive it on them very well.''

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