Kind of a drag

Apologies to the ‘60s pop group, The Buckinghams, but watching Tennessee play without injured cornerback Inquoris Johnson Saturday night against Florida was "Kind of a Drag." The Gators twice exploited a revamped Vol secondary to score easy touchdowns on drag routes.

Wide receivers were wide open on Florida's first and last touchdowns. Jemalle Cornelius had only the west sideline boundary to contend with on a 21-yard reception from Chris Leak that put the Gators on top 7-0 with 6:35 left in the first quarter.

Florida played the same tune with the same result in the fourth quarter. This time Leak hit a wide-open Dallas Baker with another 21-yard TD pass, enabling the Gators to turn a 20-14 deficit into a 21-20 victory.

On each touchdown pass the targeted receiver was lined up on the left side of the field at the start of the play. Each time he would advance a few yards downfield, then run directly across the middle. In man-to-man coverage, this forces the defensive back to move through a lot of traffic to keep pace.

Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer conceded that the Gators burned the Vols with this tactic "a couple of times," adding: "On drag routes against man-to-man coverage sometimes a back will get lost."

That's precisely what happened Saturday night … twice.

With Johnson out for the year due to a shoulder injury he suffered in Game 2 vs. Air Force, senior Antwan Stewart moved from strong safety to corner, a position he last played in 2003. Sophomore Demetrice Morley wound up starting at strong safety and converted tailback Ricardo Kemp became UT's nickel back.

Given all of the shuffling in Tennessee's defensive backfield, a few assignment busts were inevitable. Florida turned two of them into touchdowns.

"On that last drive we clearly should've been out of it (without surrendering a touchdown)," Fulmer said. "But we had a young man in there that's not used to playing that position because of the injury to Inky, and we ended up giving up a really long play."


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