Orange falters in Red Zone

The Red Zone has been a dead zone for Tennessee's offense this fall, and we're not talking about missed cell-phone calls. We're talking about missed opportunities.

A prime example: Down 3-0, the Vols recovered a fumbled punt at the Alabama 5-yard line last Saturday night. A touchdown would've provided a 7-3 lead and a huge emotional lift. Instead, a false-start penalty on first down and a sack on third down forced the Vols to settle for a 31-yard field goal.

"We didn't execute some plays," first-year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson said. "Obviously, we jumped on that first play down there on the 5-yard line. We had a lineman miss a protection on third down when we have Austin Rogers running wide open (in the end zone). The route came clean and he was wide open, but we busted a protection."

Unfortunately for Tennessee, Red-Zone problems are rampant this fall. Heading into tonight's game at South Caroline, the Vols have just 13 Red-Zone touchdowns this season – a figure that ranks ahead of only Auburn (12) and Kentucky (11) among SEC programs. Counting seven field goals, UT has scored on just 74.1 percent (20 of 27) of its red-zone visits. Only Mississippi State (66.7), Kentucky (65.4) and Auburn (64.3) are doing worse.

Clawson is clearly frustrated by the Red-Zone woes, noting that Tennessee devotes a lot of film study and practice time to this aspect of the game.

"A lot of things go into that," he said. "Every week we prepare the Red Zone (strategy) based on what a defense does. The reason so much time is spent on the Red Zone is that, typically, defenses will change their personality at a certain down and distance there.

"People will say, 'Jeez, you're running all of these plays, then you get to the Red Zone and you start doing things differently.' Well, sometimes in part that's because defenses will completely change their personality down there."

Against a South Carolina team that ranks No. 15 nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 16.1 points per game, the Vols had better find an answer to their Red-Zone struggles tonight.

The catch, Clawson says, is that the problem is too complex to have one answer.

"If it was one guy that caused those things, you'd say, 'Hey, make that change,'" the coordinator said. "But it's a different guy on different plays."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories