Run defense struggles

After allowing 138 rushing yards per game last season -- their worst total since John Chavis became defensive coordinator in 1995 -- the Tennessee Vols were supposed to be a lot tougher against the run in 2004.

There was little in Sunday night's 42-17 defeat of Nevada-Las Vegas, however, to suggest that the holes in Tennessee's run defense have been plugged.

The Rebels rushed for 175 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Scatback Dominique Dorsey did most of the damage, rushing 18 times for 121 yards, a whopping 6.7 per-carry average.

''That was a quality running back we played,'' Vol linebacker Kevin Burnett said.

In addition, UNLV caught Tennessee napping a few times by quick-snapping the ball while Vol defenders were still getting in position.

''They caught us not ready to play a couple of times,'' Burnett said. ''Once we adjusted to it, we were pretty much able to shut the outside run down.... We tried to adjust on the fly but sometimes they didn't give us time to adjust. They just come to the ball and hike it, whether you're set or not. That was a good gameplan on their part.''

End Parys Haralson echoed those thoughts.

''A couple of the times they beat us to the perimeter, it was stuff WE did,'' he said. ''We were out of alignment or missed an assignment. That's something we can work on.''

UNLV's first three points were not the fault of the Vol defense. A Brent Schaeffer fumble gave the Rebels possession at the 28-yard line, so Tennessee's stop unit did a pretty good job limiting the visitors to a mere field goal.

Nevada-Las Vegas' touchdowns were legitimate, however. The Rebels drove 80 yards for one and 73 yards for the other.

If there was a bright spot for Tennessee's defenders, it was that the way they toughened up once UNLV approached the end zone. After a 59-yard kickoff first-quarter return by Dorsey and a 24-yard pass completion to Earvin Johnson gave the Rebels a first-and-goal at Tennessee's 9-yard line, the Vols wound up forcing a field goal try that failed.

UNLV crossed midfield again moments later but Corey Campbell intercepted a pass to thwart that threat. Another Rebel drive died when Brandon Johnson stripped Dorsey and Burnett recovered at the UT 6-yard line.

So, the defense made some good stands, despite surrendering 339 total yards and 17 points.

''That's the philosophy of our defense -- bend but don't break,'' Burnett said. ''Once you get inside the 20, the Orange Area, that's when we've got to bow our necks and hold 'em out of the end zone.''

Head coach Phillip Fulmer conceded that ''We've tackled better than we did tonight, and I think Coach (John) Chavis would tell you that. I think we could've played better but we'll grow from it.''

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