Vols observe 'Law'

The way Tennessee's offense has played this fall may be a crime, but the Vols actually are staying within the law … Murphy's Law.

Murphy's Law, of course, holds that "Everything that can go wrong will go wrong." And that, says UT offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, pretty well sums up the performance of his troops to date.

"That's not a good enough answer," he said this week, "but that's what it seems like."


- An apparent Bret Smith catch at Florida's 1-yard line was reviewed by the replay official and overturned. That wound up costing the Vols seven crucial points in a 16-7 Game 2 loss to the Gators.

- The afore-mentioned Smith broke free for a sure TD just before halftime against Georgia but Rick Clausen overthrew him by mere inches. Clausen then underthrew Chris Hannon on the next play, and the ball was intercepted. That cost Tennessee seven sure points in a 27-14 Game 5 loss to the Bulldogs.

- Gerald Riggs lost a first-quarter fumble at Alabama's nine-yard line, costing the Vols at least three points. In the fourth quarter tight end Justin Reed was called for illegal procedure on first-and-goal at the Tide 4-yard line. Two plays later, Clausen was flagged for an illegal forward pass. One play later, Cory Anderson fumbled at the 3-yard line, costing Tennessee another three points in a 6-3 Game 6 loss to Bama.

Clearly, Tennessee's offensive mistakes are devastating … partly because they're coming at the most inopportune times possible.

"We probably made more mistakes last year but we got away with ‘em," Sanders said. "This year, any mistake that happens is happening at the worst time. I don't ever remember us having a procedure penalty on first-and-goal last year. And we went eight games last year without a lost fumble.

"Whatever can go wrong for us is going wrong for us at the wrong time right now."

Reed's false-start penalty was one of many the Vols have incurred this fall. His just happened to occur at a critical juncture.

"You always have more of those than any other offensive penalty," Sanders said. "It seems like the ones we've had this year have really come at critical times … not that there's ever a good time. First-and-goal at the 4-yard line is just about the worst time to get one."

Basically, what happened at the Bama 4-yard line was an offensive meltdown. Within a span of four plays the Vols made two mental errors (a false start and an illegal forward pass) and one physical mistake (the fumble).

So, which has been more damaging this season – physical mistakes or mental mistakes?

"I don't know that one has been more damaging than the other," Sanders said. "Mental mistakes usually cost you yardage but physical mistakes can cost you possession of the football. And the most important part of any football play is having

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