Control is key for Vol D

Tennessee's defenders will not be able to control Southern Miss – or any other opposing offense – until they learn to control themselves.

The Vols did a lousy job of this in Game 1 at Cal, which is why they missed 22 tackles in the 45-31 setback. In their zeal to make eye-popping hits, the Vols consistently overran plays and routinely missed tackles by flying through the air like heat-seeking missiles.

Basically, Tennessee's defenders need to exhibit a lot more discipline and a lot less reckless abandon.

Senior linebacker Ryan Karl concedes that he and his mates got really sloppy at times.

"We were flying around and trying to make plays," Karl said. "We just weren't finishing. I think we were flying around a little too much … a little bit out of control and leaving our feet a little too early. I think we were too hyped up and forgot about our fundamentals."

Likewise, junior linebacker Jerod Mayo admits that Tennessee was so fanatical in its pursuit of the ball that it routinely overran plays.

"We definitely did," he said. "We're a fast-flowing defense. They (Golden Bears) did an excellent job of cutting back and pacing themselves and finding the cutback lanes."

Still, it's possible to flow to the football without overrunning it on a regular basis.

"You've just got to play assignment football," Mayo said. "You can play fast but, at the same time, you've got to claim your gap and stay there, especially with a cutback runner like (Justin) Forsett."

Mayo said the 22 missed tackles were the most he could remember during his three-plus seasons in the program, adding that they "really killed us" and proved "tough to watch on film."

Karl agreed, noting that, "I think we gave up an extra 150 yards after contact. When you do that against a good team like Cal, you're going to give up points."

Given how poorly they played in Game 1, Tennessee's defenders are not happy campers as they prepare for the home opener vs. Southern Miss.

"I think we're angry … definitely very angry," Karl said. "We still have the confidence. We can't ever lose that confidence. I think we're going to go out and prove this week that we can still play."

Mayo admitted that the poor defensive effort against Cal left him "depressed for a couple of days" and shook his confidence "for a minute there. But we're back on our feet now. We don't look back to California. We're just looking forward to Southern Miss and the other teams we have to play."

After a brief pause, however, he somberly added:

"But if we don't get this tackling thing fixed, we're going to have a long season."


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