Don't blame the D

There is no greater cliché in college football than the old "You win as a team and you lose as a team."

While the truth of that statement is obvious, this is just as obvious: Tennessee's defense did a whole lot less to lose Saturday's game with Florida than the offense and special teams did.

A Gator attack that riddled Tennessee for 554 yards of total offense in 2007 at The Swamp managed less than half of that – 243 yards – in Saturday's rematch at Neyland Stadium. In a perfect world, that should've been enough to win the game. In this world, it wasn't enough to even come close to winning.

The fact the Gators romped 30-6, however, could be laid at the feet of an inefficient offense and a horrible performance by the kick-coverage units ... not the Vol defense.

The offense coughed up three turnovers and twice advanced to the Florida 1-yard line without scoring. The coverage units allowed Brandon James to return a punt 78 yards for a touchdown, a kickoff 52 yards to set up another TD and a punt 14 yards to set up another short-field TD.

Still, when a reporter suggested that the Vol defense did a "good job" in the game, senior defensive end Robert Ayers bristled a bit.

"We lost," he said. "We don't play this game to do a good job. We play this game to win. A good Florida team got a win in our house. We look at it as we have to go back and get better. We all played hard, but you can't say 'good job' because we lost."

Tennessee trailed 17-0 just 11 minutes into the game and never seriously threatened the Gators thereafter. Asked if he was embarrassed by the Vol performance, Ayers shook his head.

"No sir," he said. "We come out and work hard every day. We've got great coaches and great leadership on this team. We don't feel embarrassed. They (Gators) executed and they won the game."

Except for allowing Florida to convert on 8 of 13 third-down opportunities, Tennessee's defense could not be faulted for what happened Saturday.

"We never really gave our defense a chance during the course of the game," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I think our defensive team played really hard today. That (Florida) is a good offensive team, and we knew they were going to make some plays along the way."

Linebacker Rico McCoy led the way with 10 tackles, with 9 of them being assists. Safety Eric Berry had 8 tackles, including the Vols' only sack. Cornerback Dennis Rogan and middle linebacker Ellix Wilson were credited with 6 stops apiece.

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