Collapses concern Cutcliffe

In three of its last eight games, Tennessee hasn't shown much fight after facing second-half adversity. And offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe isn't happy about it.

After Erik Ainge threw an interception to open the second half at Alabama, the Vols failed to respond, getting outscored 17-0 in the last two quarters.

After an Ainge-Arian Foster fumbled exchange was returned for a touchdown against Florida, the Vols caved in, getting outscored 24-0 in the fourth quarter.

After Foster's fourth-quarter fumble was returned for a touchdown against Penn State in the Outback Bowl, the Vols appeared to wave a white flag. The Nittany Lions pulled away for a 20-10 victory.

In the fourth quarter of those three games, the Vols were outscored 45-0.

In the fourth quarter of three losses this season, UT was outscored 42-3.

Is Cutcliffe concerned about UT's inability to respond to second-half adversity?

``If I said no, I'd be a fool,'' Cutcliffe said. ``There is somewhat of a track record there. Do I think we all go punch a button and say, `It's time to panic?' No.''

Cutcliffe liked the way the Vols bounced back from the adversity of losing 59-20 to Florida to win three straight games. UT faces adversity again, coming off a humiliating 41-17 loss at Alabama.

South Carolina (6-2) is ranked No. 15 with wins over Georgia and Kentucky. It lost 17-6 to Vanderbilt, but Cutcliffe said he thinks the Gamecocks are better than the Crimson Tide.

Tennessee has shown it can bounce back from a big loss.

Can it bounce back from a big turnover, especially in the second half?

``Is one turnover going to stop us?'' Cutcliffe said. ``I certainly hope not. We talk and coach that. We deal with that all the time at practice and in scrimmages.

``We're also coaching personalities and kids and how to manage life and in these life lessons, we talk about handling adversity. You're trying to feed them the right stuff, and I hope we've got more of the right stuff in us.

``What it makes me want to do is fight somebody and the best people to fight is the opponent. I think that's where we are.''

CUTCLIFFE BRISTLES AT AINGE COMMENT

In the first half against Alabama, Ainge completed 12 of 14 passes for 158 yards. In the second half, without veterans Lucas Taylor (turf toe) and Josh Briscoe (concussion), he was 10 of 21 for 85 yards. He was 4 of 10 in the fourth quarter.

In the second half Ainge often threw to two true freshmen, Denarius Moore and Gerald Jones, and seldom-used Quintin Hancock.

``It's obviously harder when you're not on the same page with somebody like that,'' Ainge said after the game. ``I think we just need to go out to practice and I need to work with them more.''

That's not what Cutcliffe wanted to hear from his senior quarterback.

``You don't say, `That bothered me,' because if it does, then I need to have my rear end kicked and he needs to have his rear end kicked because we've all had opportunity to practice together,'' Cutcliffe said. ``So I'm not stepping there.''

Cutcliffe said injuries are a part of the game and you have to overcome them. He said if UT loses three offensive linemen in a game, it has to respond.

``That's what we have to equip ourselves to do every week,'' Cutcliffe said. ``It's football. How many times have you seen games where good football teams lose good players and continue right on doing what they do?''

Cutcliffe said he was disappointed in the way UT ran its two-minute offense, especially with Ainge afforded time to throw.

``He didn't get hit, he didn't get knocked down, they never gave us a problem,'' Cutcliffe said of the pass protection. `` I knew that he (Alabama coach Nick Saban) knew that he couldn't give us a problem in the pass protection system because we've played each other too much. He knew that. So he did other things.''

Like drop seven in coverage, play tighter on the receivers and go man underneath.

Cutcliffe said he did not abandon the run game until Alabama took a 38-17 lead with less than 11 minutes left in the game.

However, on UT's two previous possessions, UT ran just twice. And on a third-and-2 near midfield late in the third quarter, the Vols threw a pass that was incomplete.

On third-and-short this season, UT has been much better going with the power run game than throwing.

Cutcliffe was disappointed at being shut out in the second half.

``That points back to me,'' Cutcliffe said. ``When you have turnovers, when you have penalties, when you don't convert in obvious third downs in your favor, that goes right back to the coach. That's 100 percent my responsibility. … We can't let it continue.''

Cutcliffe is also aiming for more consistency. The Vols were outstanding in a 35-14 victory over Georgia and solid offensively in wins over Southern Miss, Arkansas State and Mississippi State.

But the offense didn't get it done against Florida and Alabama.

``I don't want to get into one of these, `Which team is going to show up?''' Cutcliffe said.

``You're supposed to be Tennessee every week.''


Inside Tennessee Top Stories