Can UT score style points?

The Tennessee Vols need to score some ''style points'' with poll voters if they are to earn a bid to the SEC Championship Game and a major bowl game this year. And the best way to score style points is to score plenty of points on the field each Saturday.

That puts a lot of pressure on the Big Orange offense, which has sputtered along all year. After nine games, isn't it time the attack unit produced?

''It's time; it's definitely time,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said this week.

One thing that bodes well for Tennessee this weekend against Mississippi State is that the Vols seem to have quit stopping themselves so much with stupid mistakes, costly penalties and drive-killing turnovers.

''I think we've done a great job since the Georgia game of taking care of the football,'' Sanders noted.

Indeed. The Vols fumbled twice in Game 7 at Alabama but one of those occurred when quarterback Casey Clausen was belted while trying to pass. And, as Sanders noted, ''It's hard to blame Casey for bad ball security when you get hit while throwing and fumble.''

Moreover, the Vols did not lose a turnover in Game 8 vs. Duke or in Game 9 vs. Miami. Tennessee's offensive penalties are way down, as well.

''The last two games we've not had a turnover, and we've had nine penalties the last four games,'' Sanders noted. ''So, our discipline in that way has been pretty good.''

So why did the Vols score just 23 points against Duke and 10 against Miami? Easy. They aren't able to finish drives. This is due in part to the fact they are short on athletes with big-play potential, forcing Tennessee to sustain 12- to 15-play drives in order to score.

''It's time for us to finish things,'' Sanders said. ''Going back to last week, we started the game with a nine-play drive but wound up having to punt. We come back the next series with another nine-play drive and had to punt. And we had a 10-play drive where we missed a field goal. If you're keeping the ball for nine and 10 plays, you've got to get points out of those.''

So, what's the solution to UT's problem?

''We've got to see what we can do to finish those drives better,'' Sanders said. ''Scoring touchdowns is what you want but at least we've got to get where we're getting field goals out of 'em.''


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