You think 3-3 is bad?

Phillip Fulmer isn't happy that his 2005 Tennessee football team stands 3-3 but he isn't ready to jump off the Henley Street Bridge, either.

As disappointing as the 2005 season has been to date, it's light-years ahead of another season Fulmer experienced. That would be 1988, when he was the offensive line coach for Johnny Majors. That season had a lot of people ready to jump off the Henley Street Bridge, yet it laid the groundwork for two SEC championship teams.

"I've been here when we were 0-6, and we fought and fought and fought back," Fulmer recalled. "And the next year ('89) we won the SEC championship."

Tennessee rallied from that 0-6 start in '88 to win its last five games. That momentum carried over into 1989, when the Vols went 11-1, shared the SEC title and finished No. 5 nationally. The 1990 season produced another SEC title and another top-10 national ranking.

Can the 2005 Vols rally the way the '88 team did? Fulmer hopes so.

"Sometimes things just don't go the way you want them to go, and you have to keep fighting," he said. "Our guys know they're a good team. They're the best 3-3 team in the country. They've had some very tough things happen to them, but they'll continue to fight. They're made of the right stuff."

Tennessee's defense has shown "the right stuff" all season. The problem is a UT offense that has manufactured just 14 points per game, despite highly regarded talent at virtually every position.

Asked what he'd think of Tennesee's offense if he were an opposing defensive coordinator, Fulmer replied without hesitation:

"I would be saying, ‘Man! What is wrong with those guys? Why aren't they making more things happen?' "

The head man is not blaming the Vols' offensive woes on a lack of talent.

"We have a nice-looking group of receivers, although C.J. Fayton's out and Robert Meachem hasn't been himself," Fulmer said. "We have a big, physical offensive line."

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, whose Gamecocks visit Tennessee Saturday night, concedes that the Vols not playing up to its talent level, adding: "Maybe they'll wait one more game before they get it fixed."

Fulmer is tired of waiting for his offense to jell, however.

"That's not our plan," he said. "We've got to get it well now."

While UT's offense has been awful, its defense has been awesome. You wonder: Are the defenders getting tired of having to carry most of the load week after week? Apparently there's a little grumbling but not enough to create dissension.

"That (grumbling) is human nature," Fulmer said. "It's not an effort thing. If one side of the ball was busting its rear and the other side wasn't, then you've probably got an issue. But everybody sees what's going on."

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