Matchup: Marshall

This week, Tennessee takes on Marshall in Knoxville. This is our take on this Vols vs Thundering Herd matchup. Three days after Tennessee lost to SEC rival Florida, it was evident the players and coaches hadn't recovered from the first defeat of the season. At UT's media day, Phillip Fulmer said he was still ticked and cornerback Jonathan Wade sounded like he'd lost his dog.

Tuesday was somber for Tennessee. And Wednesday's practice was sloppy.

You've got to wonder how long the Florida hangover will last.

Sometimes, the Vols have bounced back quickly. Other times, they haven't. In 1994, the Vols lost the next week to Mississippi State. In 1999, UT needed a fourth-quarter rally to beat Memphis.

Will Marshall serve as the Memphis of 1999?

Wade hopes not. But he's not convincing. Asked if Tennessee has been able to put the Florida game in the rear window, Wade said: ``If we don't, we'll get beat again, simple as that. You have to live on. You have to fight another day.''

How hard will Tennessee fight on Saturday?

This was a team determined to prove 2005 was a fluke. This was a team encouraged by a one-sided win over then-No. 9 Cal. This was a team that knew a win over Florida would vault it into the driver's seat in the East Division.

Instead, Tennessee will need help if it hopes to play for the SEC Championship.

And you wonder if the sting of an early loss to an SEC rival will have a negative residual affect.

Wade said it's easier to say you've put the Florida game in the past than to actually do it.

``You think about what if you'd done this or what if you'd done that,'' Wade said.

Wade said he's been able to erase the memory of the Florida defeat ``for the most part.''

For the most part? That means no.

He's got a couple more days to make sure he's thinking about Marshall, about homecoming, about going 3-1.

As devastating as the loss was to Florida, a loss to Marshall would be more damaging. It would put UT at 2-2 and out of the top 25. And it would signal that perhaps that 5-6 record last year wasn't a fluke. It would raise a red flag about UT's ability to beat Alabama and Arkansas and South Carolina, much less LSU and Georgia.

Wade said it was frustrating to see Florida quarterback Tim Tebow continually convert first downs out of the shotgun. Now, UT faces a third consecutive mobile quarterback, Bernard Morris, who had 151 rushing yards against Hofstra and has completed 62.3 percent of his 77 passes for 413 yards and three touchdowns.

``You have to be ready,'' Wade said of Morris. ``He can beat us with his arm and he can beat us with his legs, which is always a tough test. We've got to stay disciplined.

``They are going to run some option. If you have an option attack and you saw us play Air Force, you'd probably run the option, too.''

Here is a position-by-position look at Tennessee v. Marshall.

Game #: 1120
Site: Knoxville
Date: Sep. 23
Conference: USA
Coach Match-up:
For the Vols - Fulmer and for the Thundering Herd - Snyder


Vols

Thundering Herd
OLCOMMENTSOL

Marshall returns four starters, including Knoxville's John Inman. The Herd is averaging 173 rushing yards per game but had just 50 on 22 carries against Kansas State. UT's line didn't get a push against Air Force and got pushed around by Florida, but it should be better than Marshall's line.

QB'sCOMMENTSQB's

Morris has completed 48 of 77 passes for 413 yards and three touchdowns. He has rushed for 180 yards on 32 carries (5.6 per attempt). UT's Erik Ainge has hit 52 of 79 passes for 807 yards and seven scores. His is No. 8 in the nation in pass efficiency.

RB'sCOMMENTSRB's

Ahmad Bradshaw, a Virginia transfer, is averaging 6.3 yards on 44 carries. No other running back has more than 10 carries. UT's top two rushers are averaging 3.5 and 3.6 yards per carry.

WR'sCOMMENTSWR's

Emmanuel Spann has 15 catches for just 126 yards. No other receiver has more than seven catches. UT's Robert Meachem and Jayson Swain have combined for 31 catches and six touchdowns.


Vols

Thundering Herd
DLCOMMENTSDL

Defensive ends Shavar Greer and Albert McClellan combined for seven sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss last year. Senior Juan Underwood (6-3, 327) is a solid tackle. The Herd allowed 312 rushing yards to West Virginia but held Hofstra and Kansas State to a combined 94 rushing yards (99 by K-State). UT is led by Turk McBride, Xavier Mitchell and Antonio Reynolds.

LB'sCOMMENTSLB's

Matt Couch (97 tackles last year), Brandon Souder and Ian Hoskins are all returning starters. Rover Dennis Thornton had a team-high 104 tackles last season. Marvin Mitchell leads UT with 34 stops. Jerod Mayo leads in big plays.

DB'sCOMMENTSDB's

J.J. Johnson leads Marshall with 19 tackles. Strong safety Curtis Keyes had 88 stops last year. UT's Antwan Stewart was moved from strong safety to corner last week and recorded the highest grade. Jonathan Hefney is second on team in tackles. Demetrice Morley is due for breakout game.

S. TeamsCOMMENTSS. Teams

Spann averages 14.2 yards on punt returns, 22.3 on kick returns. Knoxville's Ian O'Conner averages 37.4 yards per punt. UT's James Wilhoit has made 11 consecutive field goals and 14 of 15. Britton Colquitt averaged 48.2 against Florida and is at 44.4. UT return game is awful.


Vols

Thundering Herd
INTANGIBLES

For the third time this season, Marshall can play the underdog chip. UT is coming of a disappointing loss to Florida and might have trouble regrouping against a 24-point underdog.

PREDICTION

Tennessee 37, Marshall 13.


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