'We're really close'

Anyone who spends more than a minute talking with any of Tennessee's offensive players or offensive coaches this week is bound to hear three words: "We're really close."

Close only counts in horseshoes in hand grenades, of course. That's why the Vols came out on the short end of a 16-7 score last Saturday night at Florida. That's why they have scraped together just 24 points in their first two games. They've come close to making several big plays but NCAA rules clearly state that you only get points if you the the ball in the end zone.

Still, UT's players and coaches take comfort in the fact they were one step away from popping some big runs and mere inches away from completing some long passes in Games 1 and 2. They hope a little better execution Saturday night against No. 3 LSU will produce touchdowns, not near-misses.

"It's frustrating because we know we're better than 24 points in two games," senior tailback Gerald Riggs said. "But we've got to keep plugging , so that hopefully in the next ball game things will happen for us.

"We're really close. If you go back and look at the film, we're this close (one inch) to making some big plays. We've got to get over that hump and start making those plays."

If the Vols could've hit a long pass or two, they would've forced Florida to quit jamming the line of scrimmage and playing press coverage on UT's receivers. It never happened, although offensive coordinator Randy Sanders says it NEARLY happened.

"I thought we were pretty close to hitting a couple of ‘em," he said. "The first play of the game Chris Hannon ran by the guy so badly that Rick (Clausen) thought he must've misread the coverage – maybe didn't see the safety – so he threw a little different ball than he normally would have."

As a result, the pass was roughly six inches beyond Hannon's grasp … the first of many near-misses for Tennessee.

"We were just barely off on a few of them," Sanders said.

Riggs believes one or two big plays might be enough to open the floodgates for the struggling Vol attack.

"If we get a couple of big plays under our belts – especially in a big ball game like this – it'll kind of be like a domino effect," he said. "We'll start making a lot more of the plays we're supposed to."

The Vols (1-1 overall, 0-1 in SEC play) had better start making some big plays soon. If they fall at LSU, they can forget about contending for the conference title. It's now or never. Riggs understands that.

"We've GOT to make the plays this weekend," he said emphatically. "Hopefully, it'll go that way."

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