''That's the strength of our defensive team; there's no question about that,'' John Chavis said moments after the Big Orange snapped a two-game losing streak with an 18-10 victory in Columbia. ''They did a tremendous job -- not only in pass defense, but also in supporting the run. They did a fabulous job.''
The stat sheet seems to support this contention. Cornerback Julian Battle led all Vol tacklers with 5 solo tackles, 3 assists and a 12-yard sack. Free safety Rashad Baker was the third-leading tackler with 3 solos, 3 assists, a pass breakup and an interception. Strong safety Gibril Wilson was the fifth-leading tackler with 5 assists and one-half sack.
''They let that one run get outside -- a reverse that they (Gamecocks) got a little momentum on,'' Chavis said, referring to a 27-yard scamper by flanker James Adkisson on Carolina's fourth snap of the game. ''Other than that, I think they played an outstanding ballgame. It was one of the better ballgames our secondary has played, and they've played a bunch of good ballgames.
''I think the strength of our defense showed tonight.'' Maybe, but reserve cornerback Jabari Greer, whose interception and 26-yard return with 2:01 left basically sealed the victory, passed the credit to Tennessee's front four. ''The defensive line got so much pressure on (Dondrial) Pinkins that he got out of the pocket and kind of rushed his throw,'' Greer said. ''He had guys all over him. All I did was step up and make the play. I give all the credit to the guys upfront.''
Greer, who lost his starting job two games ago, had seven pass breakups but no interceptions through the Vols' first seven games. Obviously, he was relieved to finally notch a pick.
''I felt like it was about time,'' he said. ''That was a relief off my back. I hadn't made any plays and a lot of people had gotten down on me. But my defensive backs that I work with every day believed in me. It (interception) will go down in my stats but I give the credit to them.''