'D' shines in clutch

There is no tougher challenge for a defensive unit than to be placed in an awful position by an offensive or special teams lapse, then expected to shut down the opponent. Tennessee's defense has shown a real knack for this, and that could be critical tonight in Game 3 at LSU.

In Game 1 against Alabama-Birmingham, Vol QB Erik Ainge was intercepted at the UT 45-yard line with 7:29 remaining and Tennessee clinging to a tenuous 17-10 lead. The Vol defense rose to the occasion, however, keeping the Blazers out of the end zone to preserve the victory.

It was more of the same in Game 2 against Florida. When Jonathan Hefney muffed a punt, giving the Gators possession at the Vol 28-yard line, Tennessee's defense forced Florida to settle for a field goal that produced a 10-7 lead.

Moments later, when a foiled fake punt gave Florida possession on the Vol 31-yard line, Tennessee's stop unit again came to the rescue. By forcing the Gators to settle for another field goal, UT's defense kept the game within reach at 13-7.

Though proud of these stands, Vol linebacker Jason Mitchell isn't satisfied.

"It felt good to stop ‘em," he said, "but our goal is to hold ‘em to ZERO points … get a turnover or something."

Asked why the Vols seem to play better in such back-to-the-wall situations, Mitchell paused thoughtfully before replying:

"There's a bigger sense of urgency because, percentage-wise, we're supposed to lose that battle. When a team gets a turnover that deep, there's an 85-percent chance they're going to score, so you have more of a sense of urgency when those situations happen."


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