Rising to the occasion

Tennessee's defense was at its best against some of the better offenses it faced, according to defensive coordinator John Chavis.

UT held LSU, the SEC's No. 2 scoring team, to one touchdown and two fields.

Georgia scored 14 points and rushed for just 69 yards.

Arkansas, which averaged almost 300 rushing yards, was held to 127.

LSU, Arkansas and Georgia combined to average 112 points. Those three offenses scored 40.

``We've played some of our best ball against some of our best competition,'' Chavis said. ``Georgia got very little. Arkansas got very little. And I think you'd probably have to say Georgia, Arkansas and LSU probably were the three best offenses that we played.

``You may draw the conclusion that we were up and down and we were. That's a fact. But at times, we played well. The thing I'm most proud of is we played best against some of our best competition.''

Statistically, the best offense Tennessee faced was Florida, which led the SEC in scoring (43.1 points) and total yards (462). Florida scored 45 points on the Vols' defense (one touchdown came on a fumble recovery return and another punt return) and racked up 554 yards.

Chavis said he was proud of the heart and character displayed by his team, but he was also disappointed.

``We didn't get what we came here for,'' Chavis said. ``Sometimes you don't get what you deserve.''

Chavis was encouraged by what he saw from his young secondary. Tennessee played the entire second half with three true freshmen defensive backs – Dennis Rogan, Brent Vinson and Eric Berry.

Rogan replaced starter DeAngelo Willingham, who was benched in the first half after he didn't play the option well.

``We made that change for what was going on and what they (Tigers) were doing, Rogan gave us a better answer in the second half,'' Chavis said.

Chavis once again defended maligned secondary coach Larry Slade.

``Unless you're close to it and you've coached the game, you don't understand the job Larry Slade has done with the secondary with the injuries that we've had,'' Chavis said. ``We've got some talent, there's no doubt about that. It's the result of doing a great job of recruiting that we had some young talent that could come in and play for us.

``You don't see many freshmen starting. When you do, they're going to make mistakes. We've had a couple that played extremely, extremely well, and at the end of the year, we had a third one that came on. Gee, I tell you, the way they played the second half, it was something special.''


True freshman receiver Gerald Jones was effective in the shotgun package designed to take advantage of his skills.

On the game's first series, Jones ran for 20 yards and a first down to set up a touchdown-scoring drive.

In the second quarter, Jones handed to Arian Foster for 4 yards and a first down.

In the third quarter, Jones ran for 19 yards and handed off to Foster for no gain.

In four plays, Jones ran for 39 yards and accumulated three first downs.

Considering how much trouble the Vols had running the ball, perhaps they should have run the package more often.

UT also ran Jonathan Crompton on an option for no gain.

Fulmer said Tennessee put in the two packages after watching Arkansas have success against LSU the week before.


Linebacker Rico McCoy said he was not surprised Berry had an interception and a fumble recovery.

``He's a freshman All-American, right?'' McCoy said. ``That's how he plays. He's a big-time player. He's a star. He's not a freshman any more.''


UT players were inspired by two pre-game situations.

One, about 15 former Vols came to the locker room to address the team, including Al Wilson, Leonard Little, Tee Martin, Fred White, Joey Kent and Demetrin Veal.

Two, the Vols wore orange pants. Players had asked to wear the orange pants – it would be the first time since 1999 against Memphis. Fulmer said no. But when the team arrived at the dressing room for the game, orange pants were set out.

EXTRA POINTS: UT outside linebacker Ryan Karl suffered a fracture in his right elbow in the first half. He is not expected to require surgery. His status for the bowl game is uncertain. … Outside linebacker Nevin McKenzie (ankle) will be out several weeks. UT is hopeful he can return for the bowl game. … UT middle linebacker Jerod Mayo was the only Vol who suffered cramps. He led the team in tackles with 15. … LSU coach Les Miles reached an agreement Friday night on a three-year extension that will pay him over $3 million per year. His contract will run for seven years. … After a game-opening touchdown drive, UT had just two first downs and 36 yards the rest of the half. … LSU outgained UT 464 yards to 343 and had the ball for 36:08.

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