Mistakes killing Vol offense

Tennessee's offense faced three nationally ranked defenses the past three games -- South Carolina (No. 17), Auburn (No. 8) and Georgia (No. 1) -- which partly explains why the Vol attack has sputtered lately.

As offensive coordinator Randy Sanders noted earlier this week: ''When you play tough defenses, it's like playing golf at Augusta National. You don't have much margin for error.''

While some quality defenses have stopped the Vols at times, more often than not the Vols have stopped themselves ... with penalties, mental mistakes and sloppy execution.

''We've played some good defenses,'' Sanders conceded, ''but we've made too many errors and made the defenses look better than they are. Last week against Georgia, six or eight plays absolutely killed us.''

Unless Tennessee does a better job of limiting its mistakes, the Vols could get killed again this Saturday against Alabama.

Given UT's struggles in recent weeks, you'd figure the Big Orange made some changes in its schemes, its blocking assignments or its personnel during the recent open-date week. Not so. Sanders says he has sought just one alteration.

''We've tried to change the attitude,'' he said. ''We've tried to change the attitude that it's OK to make one or two mistakes per game. If one guy makes two mistakes and another guy makes two mistakes and another guy makes two mistakes and another guy makes two mistakes, suddenly you've wasted 15 or 20 plays out of 65 or 70 plays in a game. That's too many. We've got to get an attitude where any mistake is unacceptable. Hopefully, we've done that.

''Scheme-wise and player-wise, it's the same. What we've tried to do works. We've just got to (execute) it.''

A major problem for Tennessee's offense in recent weeks was a rash of third-and-long situations. Sanders conceded as much.

''Against Auburn, I think we had 14 third downs, and nine of them were 10-plus (yards),'' he said. ''That makes it real hard. When you get against a good team and you get third and 10-plus, it's really hard to convert. It all starts on first and second down.''

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