Hall Will Sack Defenders

If Jason Hall hears a defender rip Tennessee's offense, he's going for a sack.

``Definitely,'' Hall said when asked if he'd scold a teammate for jumping on the offense. ``That's part of my job as being senior leader on the football team. I wouldn't be able to stand there and allow it to happen.''

Hall said he's seen no evidence of the defense pointing fingers at the offense and he doesn't expect that he will.

``We've got a lot of guys who have played football together and those guys on the opposite side of the ball are our friends and our teammates,'' Hall said. ``We'll always lift them up and give them as much respect as they deserve.''

Right now, the offense doesn't deserve much respect.

The defense has played well enough to be 6-0.

The offense has played well enough to be, oh, 1-5.

It's an offense that ranks 105 in scoring and rushing and 94 in total offense.

Offensive coordinator Randy Sanders was asked if those numbers bother him.

``That's a good question,'' he said. ``I told my wife last week you're not going to like what I'm getting ready to tell you but what we've got to do to try to win this (Alabama) game is not going to be real exciting and not produce many numbers.

``The fact we ended up with 253 yards with the type plan we had, the type game we tried to turn it into I thought was a pretty good offensive output. I really didn't expect to get that much done. I thought that was the only way for us to play the game to win.''

That's an amazing statement. Has UT's offense become so inept that 253 yards of total offense is a ``pretty good'' output?

While I don't quibble with the plan - the Vols were two fumbles inside the Alabama 10 from winning the game - I don't see how 253 yards is satisfying, even against a great defense.

Tennessee used basically the same offensive plan against Alabama as it did in an upset win at Miami in 2003. The difference: The fumbles.

Back to the numbers. UT is averaging 322.3 total yards, 100.5 rushing yards and 16.3 points.

``The only numbers I worry about are wins and loses,'' Sanders said. ``Stats are nice, but wins and losses are what matter.''

Problem is, if UT's offense had been more productive, the Vols would be 5-1, losing only to Georgia, instead of 3-3 and out of the SEC race.

``The points are what you worry about,'' Sanders said. ``That's where we've got to be more efficient as an offense. When you have the opportunity to score, you've got to score. There's no excuse for fumbling twice inside the 10, no excuse for having two penalties when you get inside the 20. Any time you play a team the caliber of Alabama, it's hard enough to do things, period, much less when you're making mistakes that make their job easier.''

So who's to blame when the Vols continue to make the same offensive mistakes?

Sanders pointed a finger - at himself.

``I'm the offensive coordinator,'' Sanders said. ``I'm the head coach of the offense. So I have to take responsibility. But a whole lot lies in individuals jumping off sides, fumbling, throwing the ball when you're past the line of scrimmage. These are things that are stressed from the seventh grade to now.''

While Sanders is a lightning rod for criticism, his critics that claim UT's offense has steadily declined since he took over before the 1999 season are wrong. There has been an overall decline, but it's been more like a roller coaster.

Tennessee won a national championship with an offense that ranked No. 32 in the nation in 1998.

In 1999, Sanders first season as offensive coordinator, the Vols' offense ranked 33rd. In 2000, it was 57, then 42, then 85, then 67, then 35 and now 94.

The scoring has gone from 20th in 1999 to 19, 35, 86, 45, 39 and now 105.

The rushing has gone from 20 to 39 to 57 to 55 to 70 to 24 and now 105.

The passing has gone from 56 to 62 to 37 to 67 to 42 to 59 and now 61.

Comparing UT's Offense and Defense to SEC Foes

We recently wrote about how UT's offense has averaged 304.4 yards against its five SEC opponents, which average giving up 287 yards per game.

We took it a step farther. UT's five SEC opponents have allowed 14.9 points per game. UT's offense - not counting defensive scores or setups - is averaging 10.2 points against SEC foes.

Only against LSU did the Vols' offense score more than the opponent's defensive average. LSU allows18 points per game, UT scored 21.

Tennessee scored seven points against Georgia (allowing 13.7 points), three against Alabama (10.1), seven against Florida (16.1) and 13 against Ole Miss (16.4).

Meanwhile, the defensive numbers have been impressive. UT's five SEC foes have combined to average 373 yards per game. UT has allowed those five teams an average of 283 total yards. Alabama, LSU and Florida had more than 100 fewer yards against UT that their respective average. Only Georgia came within 20 yards of its average.

UT's SEC opponents have averaged 25.3 points per game, but only 11.8 against John Chavis' unit.


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