Ground game sputters

Head coach Phillip Fulmer thought Tennessee would be able to "pound the rock" in last Saturday's opener against Alabama-Birmingham. Instead, the Vols managed 138 yards on 35 rushes, averaging a so-so 4.0 yards per carry against the defensively challenged Blazers.

Fulmer wasn't particularly happy with the performance but he's hopeful the Vols can smooth out some of the rough edges between now and Game 2 Sept. 17 at Florida.

"There were two or three occasions where we could've made a cut that might've made a difference in a run," the head man said. "And there were two or three times when we didn't finish blocks."

Starting tailback Gerald Riggs rushed 23 times for 110 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Redshirt freshman Arian Foster added 23 yards on five carries, a 4.6-yard average.

Fulmer noted that Riggs "had a very good ballgame," adding that he was "very pleased with Arian … that was good to see."

Anticipating Tennessee would try to run the ball to open up the passing game, the Blazers stacked their defense to stop the ground attack. The ploy worked … for a while, anyway.

"They did a couple of things that bothered us early," Fulmer said. "They got their safeties involved (in run support), so we ended up with more passes (38) than runs (35)."

Although the Vols were not as balanced as the head coach likes – gaining twice as many yards passing (274) as rushing (138) – Fulmer believes the offense was fairly effective for an opening game.

"We gained more than 400 yards," he said. "If we'd made some of those cuts and not thrown away some of those balls we could've had a pretty good day."


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