UT needs balance

When Air Force crowded the line of scrimmage and dared Tennessee to pass last weekend, the Vols accommodated the Falcons by throwing for 333 yards and rushing for just 79 yards. That formula probably won't work against Florida this weekend, though.

As a rule, a more balanced attack is needed to prevail against a quality opponent. And the seventh-ranked Gators certainly qualify as a quality opponent.

Vol offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe put it this way: "You know when you play an opponent like Florida that you've got to find a way to have some balance or they will chew you up and spit you out."

Tennessee gained 216 rushing yards in Game 1 against California. Still, Cutcliffe says he hasn't been especially pleased with the ground attack thus far.

"We were inconsistent both ball games," he said. "There were flashes of some good things. It probably wasn't as bad in the last game as it might've seemed. We did some decent things; we just never really got in that kind of game against Air Force.

"I don't know that our run game has been tested yet."

It will be tonight. Florida's front four features three guys – Ray McDonald, Jarvis Moss and Marcus Thomas – who made the preseason watch list for the Lombardi Award, given annually to the NCAA's premier defensive lineman.

That trio will challenge Tennessee's ground game and the Vols' passing attack, as well. Quarterback Erik Ainge, who leads the NCAA in passer efficiency, is sure to feel more pressure than he felt in Games 1 and 2. How he responds could determine the game's outcome.

"This is SEC football. This will be a big test for everybody, certainly at quarterback," Cutcliffe noted. "They (Gators) are going to make you perform. He's well aware of that. Now he just has to go out and do it.

"You prepare the best you can on the practice field for what the intensity level is going to be like but you still can't quite get it to that point."

On a positive note, if Ainge can handle Florida's pass rush, he should enjoy some success throwing against a youthful Gator secondary.

"Southern Mississippi and Central Florida did some good things," Cutcliffe said of Florida's first two foes.

Tennessee, of course, is a lot tougher than Southern Miss and Central Florida. Then again, Florida is a lot tougher than Air Force.

"Any time you go outside the conference, then step back into the conference, you know the intensity level's going to go way up," Cutcliffe said.

The talent level this week is going way up, too. Florida's athletes will provide a much better matchup this weekend than Air Force's athletes did last weekend.

"Against the last opponent we weren't very challenged and we were able to make some big plays," Cutcliffe noted. "We're a work in progress. I don't know where we are but we'll certainly find out Saturday night."


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