Where's the punch?

Four games into the 2005 season Tennessee's football team resembles a crafty old boxer – exhibiting great defense but lacking the punch to score a knockout.

The Vols are tied for 10th among the 12 SEC teams in offensive production this fall, mustering just 12 scoring drives in four games. Only one SEC team is doing worse; Ole Miss has a mere nine scoring drives in four games.

Like Tennessee, Mississippi State and LSU have produced 12 scoring drives to date. The Tigers have played just three games, however, so they're averaging four scoring drives per game, compared to Tennessee's three.

Whereas Ole Miss, UT and Mississippi State have struggled mightily to put up points, Auburn (28 scoring drives), Alabama (25), Florida (24), Vanderbilt (24) and Georgia (23) have been lighting up scoreboards.

Tennessee tends to move the ball well until it gets to the opponent's 30-yard line, then the Vols usually stall.

Head coach Phil Fulmer is aware of this frustrating trend, noting: "It's something we're obviously looking at and addressing."

So, why aren't the Vols more productive when they get in scoring position?

"Execution, more than anything," Fulmer said. "It gets crowded. People are more daring, more willing to blitz."

The coach used a play from last week's game with Ole Miss to illustrate his point. A Rebel cornerback fell, leaving Tennessee's wide receiver wide open. Just as Rick Clausen was about to unload the pass, however, he fell victim to the only sack the Vols surrendered all day.

"The receiver's standing there, waiting for the ball. We just can't quite get it to him," Fulmer said, shaking his head at the recollection. "It's been a series of those types of things."

Clausen, asked about Tennessee's inability to score once it gets to an opponent's 30-yard line, offered similar comments.

"We need to execute better," he said. "That's the big thing. When we get a play called, everybody do their job. We need to go back on the practice field and get better at it."

That's a fact. No matter how crafty they are, boxers with no punch don't win championships.


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