Walls returned for Game 3 vs. Florida but had his only attempt, a 27-yarder, blocked. In Game 4 vs. Rutgers he was wide left on a 40-yarder and came up five yards short on a 41-yarder. So, when the Vols faced a fourth down at the Scarlet Knight 31-yard line in the fourth quarter, the UT staff had so little confidence in its field-goal unit that it opted to take a delay-of-game penalty, then punt.
Given UT's struggles trying to dent the end zone, the inability to at least salvage a few field goals could prove to be a fatal flaw. A missed field goal can swing momentum, too. Each of the past two games Tennessee has marched down the field on its opening drive only to come away empty due to missed field goals.
''It's a little bit of a downer for the team when you miss a field goal, especially on the first possession,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. ''Obviously, you want a touchdown. But if you can at least get a field goal out of it, that provides a little bit of a lift and gives everyone some confidence -- not just the offensive guys but the defensive guys.''