Losing is fundamental

There is one overwhelming reason Tennessee is 0-2 versus ranked teams this season. Likewise, there is one overwhelming reason Tennessee fans are upset.

That reason is fundamentals. The 2007 Vols have been fundamentally unsound at times. They miss blocks on third-and-short situations. They drop passes at key moments. They overrun plays and miss tackles. They bust assignments in giving up long pass plays. They leave their lanes on punt coverage.

These are the types of fundamental errors that typically kill teams such as Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Kentucky (4-0) has escaped the fundamentally unsound category this fall, however, and Tennessee (2-2) has filled the void.

Four games into the season, you'd expect a team to be strong fundamentally. Tennessee is not, however, so head coach Phillip Fulmer is devoting a good portion of his open-date week working on the basics.

"It's very good to get the fundamental work done that we needed to get done," he said following Tuesday's practice. "We spent about 15 minutes on tackling today. That's exactly what we need to do."

Tennessee missed 22 tackles in Game 1 vs. Cal. The Vols missed only six in Game 2 vs. Southern Miss but were guilty of 16 in Game 3 vs. Florida.

Arkansas State is not in the same class with Cal and Florida, yet the Indians exploited some costly fundamental mistakes by UT in a 48-27 Game 4 loss to the Big Orange. The Vols dropped four or five catchable passes. They missed too many tackles. They blew a couple of coverage assignments that resulted in long pass plays.

"If we don't give up a deep ball that came from a bust and missing tackles," Fulmer said, "we've got a really, really fine defensive game against a good offensive football team."

Arkansas State is a good offensive football team. But Georgia (Oct. 6), Alabama (Oct. 20), South Carolina (Oct. 27), Arkansas (Nov. 10), Vanderbilt (Nov. 17) and Kentucky (Nov. 24) are even better offensive football teams. If the Vols are to win any of those games they must eliminate some of the fundamental foul-ups that have characterized their play to date.

"We're continuing to work to not make the mistakes that beat us," Fulmer said. "As I said to the guys, ‘You've got to avoid losing before you can win.'"


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