Back to the drawing board

Another Saturday night ... another listless performance by <!--Default For Tennessee is to ignore-->Tennessee's offense ... another disappointing loss.

After producing just 222 yards of total offense and almost as many turnovers (6) as points (7) in Saturday night's 34-14 loss to Alabama, the Vol attack is under attack. The Big Orange seems unable to move the football on a consistent basis. That's why Tennessee stands 4-3 overall (1-3 in SEC play) and headed for a losing season if it doesn't regroup quickly.

Asked if he will focus on scheme or personnel in an attempt to right the ship, offensive coordinator Randy Sanders paused thoughtfully.

''You've got to look at both,'' he said. ''There's not a whole lot we can do personnel-wise that we haven't tried at some point. We've tried to get (freshman receiver) Jonathan Wade in the mix more, and he's coming on, doing some good things.''

A world-class sprinter, Wade had a 32-yard reception and a 21-yard run on an end-around.

''We tried to get the ball to him a couple of other times,'' Sanders noted, ''but it didn't work out.''

Quarterback Casey Clausen feels as if every break is going against the Vols lately. Still, he says Tennessee isn't making its own breaks.

''Nothing went our way tonight,'' he said. ''We obviously made a lot of mistakes, physically and mentally. We just didn't make plays when we needed to.''

Center Scott Wells agreed, adding that it isn't major mistakes that are killing the Vols.

''We've got to eliminate the small things,'' he said. ''We're an inch off on blocks ... an extra guy shows up in the block and ends up making the tackle ... twists on passes where somebody sets in the wrong direction. We've just go to learn from it and move on.''

The offensive line took a lot of heat Saturday night, and Wells hinted that much of it was deserved.

''We made too many mistakes; that's obvious,'' he said. ''Casey got hit too many times. He shouldn't have been hit one time in this game.''

Although Alabama has an outstanding defense, the Vols made things easier for the Tide by blowing assignments with alarming regularity.

''They didn't throw anything at us that we didn't know they were going to throw at us,'' Wells said. ''They gave all their stunts away. We knew it was coming. To be frustrated by something you know is coming should not be effective at this point in the game.''

Asked if the Vol blocking schemes might be too complex, Wells shook his head.

''No. It's pretty simple when you sit down and study it,'' he said. ''I really have no answer for why the mistakes are happening the way they are.''

When Tennessee marched 30 yards on its first three plays against Bama, it appeared the Vols were off to the races. Instead, Clausen threw a lateral that skipped off the fingers of Derrick Tinsley. Alabama's Gerald Dixon scooped up the loose ball and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown. That 14-point swing was devastating.

''That was the beginning of the frustration,'' Wells said. ''We knew we could move the ball, and we proved that, but we made a lot of mistakes and a lot of turnovers. That plays on your mind when somebody comes out and hits you in the mouth (as UT did to Bama on that first drive). Pretty much every play we had was positive.

''When you get a break like that for a touchdown, that's definitely a big momentum changer and sets a different tempo for the game.''


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