Pickin' up the slack

You've probably worked a job where you had to push extra hard because your co-worker was a slacker. If you haven't encountered this situation ... well, you probably ARE the slacker.

Regardless, it's easy for those who must pick up the slack to feel resentment toward those who don't carry their weight. That could be the case for Tennessee's defenders this fall. After all, they're No. 13 nationally in rushing defense, No. 12 in pass defense and No. 5 in total defense. Still, the Big Orange stands 2-3 overall and 0-2 in SEC play, largely because the UT attack ranks No. 61 nationally in rushing, No. 98 in passing, No. 97 in total offense and No. 106 in scoring.

Junior defensive end Wes Brown concedes that playing good defense but still losing "can be frustrating." However, he insists there is no resentment among Vol defenders toward their teammates on the other side of the ball.

"We take it as a challenge," he said. "We want to give the offense a short field, take it upon ourselves to get turnovers and try to score on defense. We're not pointing fingers. We're just trying to work hard on defense to try and make our team better."

Except for a fourth-quarter melt-down at UCLA, Vol defenders have done their part to make the team better. They allowed just 243 net yards in a Game 3 loss to Florida, then allowed a mere 226 net yards and one offensive touchdown in a Game 4 loss to Auburn.

Considering how well Vol defenders are playing, you'd figure they'd feel a sense of accomplishment, even when Tennessee loses. They don't.

"We're not satisfied with how we're playing defensively," Brown said. "We're 2-3 and we want to make the other team score less points where we can win. Right now we're just wanting to win, to do anything for a win right now."

Brown no doubt remembers that the roles were reversed last fall, when the Vol offense was awesome and the defense was awful. As a result, he's more concerned with the final score than the final statistics.

"If we win 41-40 or 3-2, we just want to win," he said. "If the offense scores three points and we pitch a shutout or if we give up so many points and the offense scores more, it really doesn't matter."

Brown and his defensive cohorts face their toughest challenge to date this Saturday in Athens against 10th-ranked Georgia. The Bulldogs rank No. 1 among SEC teams in passing offense (263.4 yards per game), No 2 in total offense (424.8 yards per game) and No. 3 in scoring offense (34.4 points per game). Superstar Knowshon Moreno, regarded by many as the NCAA's premier running back, is the Bulldogs' No. 1 weapon.

"They're not afraid to let you know it's going to be a smash-mouth game," Brown said. "They're going to bring it downhill, get the ball to Moreno, then try to open up the play-action pass. We're going to have to come out and stop the run to begin with, then see how things go from there."


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