The unkindest 'Cut' of all

Tennessee football fans spend a lot of time second-guessing David Cutcliffe's play calls these days. The Vols' offensive coordinator can relate. He second-guesses them, too.

One call both sides apparently view with equal disdain occurred in the first quarter last Saturday at Florida. Down 7-0 and facing third-and-one at the Gator 12-yard line, David Cutcliffe called a pass from shotgun formation. Erik Ainge's throw fell incomplete and the Vols settled for a field goal.

Most Tennessee fans think the Vols should be able to run for one yard in that situation. So does Cutcliffe, which made calling the pass somewhat distasteful.

"It's difficult for a coach," he said. "I didn't like the call I made on third-and-one when we sprinted out, for example. I didn't like it when I said it. That's an indication that you're struggling a little bit mentally as to what you're going to do."

Tennessee had tried third-and-short runs twice previously, failing each time. Arian Foster gained one yard on third-and-two at the Florida 18-yard line, then was stuffed for no gain on third-and-one at the Gator 42 moments later. That's why Cutcliffe went with the pass on third-and-one at the 12 later in the period.

"We'd already been stopped twice running the ball," he recalled. "We got the exact look (from Florida's defense) we thought we'd get and didn't make it."

Basically, the Vols aren't executing in the clutch.

"We're stopping ourselves," Cutcliffe said. "There's been a minuscule number of plays that have been negative for us but they've been DISASTROUS. When we have a bad play on offense it's on third-and-short or it's two turnovers for touchdowns.

"If you look at the other 200 snaps (this season), it's amazing how good we are at times. That's the secret. What I'm most sick over is the ball being turned over at critical times. That's something we don't do and something that's not acceptable."

Receiver Josh Briscoe recently said the Vols "need to get back to playing Tennessee football." Asked what he meant by that, he replied: "It's just lining up and being able to run the ball … letting you know we're going to run the ball and there's nothing you can do about it. That's Tennessee football. The last couple of years we haven't run the ball that good."

Although Tennessee rushed for just 37 yards on 21 carries in its 59-20 loss at Florida, Briscoe believes the ground attack is on the verge of clicking.

"I really do think we can turn it around," he said. "The offensive line is very strong. They can get the push upfront that we need."

They'd better start pushing soon or else the number of people second-guessing Cutcliffe's play calls will continue to grow.

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