Alarming trend

Tennessee's defense shut down Georgia for three quarters, then allowed the Bulldogs to march 73 yards for a game-clinching fourth-quarter touchdown on nine consecutive Thomas Brown runs.

Tennessee's defense shut down Alabama for three quarters, then allowed the Tide to complete a 43-yard fourth-quarter bomb that set up the game-winning field goal.

Tennessee's defense shut down South Carolina for three quarters, then allowed the Gamecocks to score a touchdown AND a game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter.

Notice a trend?

The Vol stop unit has been just about impregnable all year … except for the fourth quarter. In each of the past three games, late lapses proved costly as Tennessee lost each time.

Clearly, most of the responsibility for Tennessee's three-game losing streak belongs to an anemic Vol offense. Perhaps carrying the offense for three quarters is leaving UT's defenders physically and emotionally drained by the fourth quarter. Regardless, the defense has been a lot more generous in the final period lately than it has been in the first three.

The most dramatic example was the most recent example. Tennessee allowed South Carolina just 190 yards and 7 points in the game's first 45 minutes, then surrendered 119 yards and 9 points in the final 15 minutes. That enabled the Gamecocks to come from behind – not once, but twice – in the final quarter of their 16-15 victory.

After completing just 14 of 27 passes for 152 yards in the first three quarters, Carolina quarterback Blake Mitchell completed 11 of 13 for 113 yards in the final period. He was 6 of 7 passing for 48 yards on the 80-yard touchdown drive that gave Carolina a 13-12 lead, then went 5 of 6 for 55 yards on the march to the game-winning field goal.

Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis was disappointed with the late lapse vs. Carolina but says the mistakes were physical and, therefore, correctable.

"We were not as sharp on the touchdown drive as we were most of the night," he said. "It was disappointing that we allowed them to take a drive down the field and score on us. Any time that happens that's disappointing.

"But I will assure you there isn't anything mental (lingering) from that. We made some physical mistakes that made it easier than it should've been. I wouldn't say it was alarming but certainly there's some concern. You want to get those things rectified."

Especially with a Notre Dame team that averages nearly 40 points per game lying in wait this afternoon at South Bend.

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