Drops nearly killed UT

Going into Monday night's game at LSU Vol offensive coordinator Randy Sanders figured he had some dynamic pass plays that would produce several long-range touchdowns. And they would have … if the Vols had caught the ball.

- On Tennessee's second possession, one of Sanders' pet calls got Bret Smith wide open in the LSU secondary for what would've been an 84-yard touchdown play. But Smith dropped the ball.

- On Tennessee's fourth possession, Erik Ainge threw over the middle to a wide-open Josh Briscoe. The play would've gained at least 30 yards and probably would've gone for a 53-yard touchdown. But Briscoe dropped the ball.

- On Tennessee's final possession of the half, Sanders called the same pass play that Smith had dropped on possession No. 2. Smith again slipped behind the LSU secondary but Rick Clausen, unloading under duress, underthrew the ball so badly that Smith had to make a diving catch. Instead of an 87-yard touchdown play, the Vols had to settle for a 25-yard gain.

Had Tennessee made those three plays it would've gone to halftime tied 21-21 instead of trailing 21-0.

The Vols began catching the ball in the second half and closed to 24-21 in the fourth quarter. At this point Sanders dipped into his bag of tricks one last time, calling a wheel route for Cory Anderson. The 275-pound fullback broke free down the left sideline. When Clausen put the ball on the money it appeared the Vols were going to score a 59-yard touchdown. But Anderson dropped the ball and Tennessee settled for a field goal.

Sanders called four plays that should've produced long-range touchdowns. Instead, they produced three drops and one 25-yard completion.

So, how does it feel to call a perfect play and get an imperfect result?

"When it's not happening, it's very frustrating," Sanders said. "When you get exactly the right defense and you guess exactly right as a play-caller – you get exactly what you want and you don't execute – it's very frustrating."

Needless to say, Monday was a very frustrating night for the coordinator.

"I called two plays that I thought would be touchdowns," Sanders said. "We hit Bret with one but he had to make a diving catch. It was the exact same play we had run earlier in the game that he dropped. We executed it once for a big third-down conversion but, really and truly, we should've had two touchdowns on it.

"The pass Josh Briscoe dropped – if he catches it – it may score because there was absolutely nobody left in the middle of the field," Sanders added.

"Going into the game I thought the pass to Cory Anderson would be a touchdown, and we dropped it. You only have so many ‘touchdown plays' going into a game – plays you think, "This has a chance to be a 40- or 50-yard touchdown."

Sanders called four of those plays Monday night but poor execution doomed all four. Fortunately, Tennessee made enough catches in the second half to turn the 21-0 deficit into a 30-27 overtime victory.

"That's the way it's supposed to be," Sanders said. "It (executing) allows you get into a rhythm and a flow as a play-caller and as an offense. When you call something that works, you're able to set other things up.

"The defense is thinking, ‘We've got to watch this play they ran a few minutes ago,' and then you're able to run something else off of it.' "


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