Mistakes hurting D

Tennessee's defense is playing pretty well right now but Vol defenders still have some screws to tighten before facing unbeaten Alabama Saturday in Tuscaloosa. They made some senseless mistakes that proved costly in the recent Game 5 loss to Georgia.

Offsides penalties on defensive tackles Justin Harrell (at the Georgia 44-yard line) and Turk McBride (at the UT 11-yard line) helped the Bulldogs go 83 yards in 14 plays for the game's first touchdown.

An offsides call against end Parys Haralson sustained Georgia's drive to a third-period field goal that widened the gap to 13-0.

A five-yard facemask penalty negated an eight-yard sack by Haralson in the fourth quarter.

As well as Tennessee's defense is playing, it would be almost impregnable if the Vols could stop making these drive-sustaining mistakes. What's the problem?

"There's nothing I can put my finger on and say ‘That's why we were jumping offsides.' " senior linebacker Kevin Simon said. "It probably had to do with a little lack of concentration or maybe trying to be overaggressive. Whatever it was, we can't have it and be on our A-game."

Although Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley changed his cadence several times, Simon said that was no excuse for those three costly offsides penalties.

"They were switching up their cadence a little bit," Simon said, "but you're taught from a very young age – I started at age 8 – to watch the football (and react only when it is snapped)."

After committing just nine penalties (4.5 per outing) in Games 1 and 2, Tennessee was flagged 33 times (11.0 per outing) in Games 3, 4 and 5. The Vols survived 14 penalties to nip LSU in overtime but could not overcome the 12 they committed against Georgia.

"We got beat by Georgia but we helped them out a lot – penalties, an interception, a fumble, not getting a fumble on the defensive side or (giving up) that punt they returned for a touchdown," Simon said. "You can't win in the SEC making all those mistakes."

Since the Vols have lost head-to-head against Florida and Georgia, they already have been eliminated from the SEC East title chase. So what do they play for now?

"As it stands right now we're out of the championship picture but that can't stop us from playing our game – getting better, beating Alabama, beating Notre Dame and beating the rest of the teams on the schedule," Simon said. "It's not impossible to get back in the championship mix. We've got to continue to do things on a weekly basis to be the best football team we can be."

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