Missed tackles

Tennessee's defense held Marshall to one touchdown and 236 total yards. The Thundering Herd managed just 110 passing yards and their leading rusher was held to a 3.0 yards per carry on 24 attempts. Sounds like a good day at the office, right?

Not if you're John Chavis.

Tennessee's defensive coordinator wasn't pleased after the Vols' 33-7 homecoming victory.

``It's not where we want to be,'' Chavis said. ``It's not where we need to be right now. We've got to build on it.''

The source of Chavis' soreness was tackling. The Vols missed too many. Chavis described his unit's tackling as ``average at best.''

Marshall running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Chubb Small combined for 116 yards on 33 carries. That's only 3.5 yards a pop, but Chavis felt the number should have been lower. When you were the No. 2 rush defense in the nation a year ago, perhaps you get a bit spoiled when the other team reaches triple figures on the ground.

``We've had opportunities to make some plays that we haven't made,'' Chavis said. ``I thought in the spring we were a really good tackling team. Because we've had so many guys miss so much practice time (since early August) I think it's hurt us a little bit. We've got to get back to where we were in the spring. We were actually tackling better in the spring than we are right now.''

The main culprits have been the linebackers and defensive backs. Moreover, the defensive line has been hurt by the loss of All-SEC defensive tackle Justin Harrell to a season-ending injury.

Marshall had too many long marches to suit Chavis. The Herd had drives of 13 plays (touchdown), 12 plays (missed field goal), 11 plays (fumble) and eight plays (interception). While Marshall didn't score many points, it had the ball for 34 minutes and 29 seconds, running 62 plays to UT's 51 snaps.

While UT's defense was on the field most of the third quarter, it didn't have a negative affect in the fourth quarter. Chavis said that had to do with UT playing more people on defense, keeping the starters fresh down the stretch.

``Yes, finally, finally,'' Chavis said when asked if he liked the way UT played in the fourth period.

``We spent a lot of time emphasizing that. And I hope our players are starting to develop some pride in it. It's a mindset. … Let's face it, when you've got a lead in the fourth quarter and you give it up, you're never going to feel good about that.''


Tennessee senior left guard David Ligon said the offensive line was eager to prove it was better than the way it played against Florida.

And, it was tired of hearing the criticism.

``We went out and tried to prove everybody wrong,'' Ligon said of the sting from the minus-11 yard rushing effort against Florida. ``Coach (Phillip) Fulmer, he didn't slack off when talking to the media about the things that went wrong. He said we did horrible and he laid into us.

``We read the newspaper. We see what he says. That hurt. We wanted to come out and prove he was wrong.''

Did the line?

``I think we did a good job,'' Ligon said. ``It's not the best we'll ever do, but, obviously, we've played worse. We were pushing their guys off the line and getting 4, 5 yards per play off the run game. That's what we want.''

It's what you want, but it's not what Tennessee got. In the first three quarters, the Vols had 36 rushing yards on 14 attempts, including a 5-yard loss on a sack.

``We're going to have a lot of things to work on until we win the championship,'' Ligon said.

That's a more positive outlook that you might have thought after the Florida debacle. Ligon was asked if the linemen had their confidence shaken by the Gators.

``It's hard to say if we were worried about our confidence,'' Ligon said. ``I can certainly say we were mad. We were angry at our performance. When people talk bad about you, it doesn't matter who you are, you get upset. We definitely were.''

Ligon said he saw positive signs from the line's effort against Marshall.

``Yes I do, absolutely, definitely a positive sign,'' he said.


For the most part, Tennessee was productive on first downs.

On 23 first-down snaps, the Vols gained a whopping 280 yards.

They hit eight of 10 passes for 118 yards with one interception and ran 15 times for 162 yards, including an 89-yard run. The run game sputtered early. The first 10 first-down runs got 26 yards. The last five got 136.

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