Mistakes hurting Vol D

Because of a glut of mistakes, Tennessee's defense has not performed as well as expected in the first two games of 2004. Naturally, this has coordinator John Chavis concerned heading into Game 3 vs. Louisiana Tech.

He's not nearly as concerned, however, as he would be if the Vols were being physically whipped upfront. All of the problems Tennessee's defense had in Games 1 and 2 are correctable.

''Absolutely,'' said Chavis, whose hair is graying and thinning at a rapid pace these days. ''I'd probably have no hair at all if we didn't think we could get better.''

The Vol coordinator knows all too well that a few untimely mistakes can neutralize an otherwise excellent defensive effort and lead to a costly defeat. That's why he's unwilling to overlook the fact that UT's defense played well for MOST of last Saturday's game with Florida.

''It's fortunate that we won and made the mistakes we made,'' he said. ''If somebody chose to put a spin on it, they could say, 'Coach, you didn't play very bad at all. You gave up a 30-yard drive (following an interception) and a 34-yard drive (following a fumble). Other than the short-field drives, you gave up one big play (a 71-yard TD pass) and one long drive (97 yards) for points. If you give up 14 points every week, you're going to win a bunch of ballgames.' ''

Chavis has no use for such talk, however, because he doesn't believe in utilizing spin or making excuses.

''We don't want to do that,'' he said. ''People could say, 'You really didn't play that bad,' but we DID. We're not satisfied with the end result. We expect to play better at Tennessee, and we've got the personnel to do that.

''I do think we can get better and I do think we WILL get better.''

Tennessee is allowing 380 yards and 22.5 points per game, but the coordinator is convinced better days lay ahead.

''We're talented enough to be a pretty good defense,'' Chavis said. ''We've just got to eliminate the mistakes.''

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