Vol D stifles 12-man offense

Tennessee's offense incurred eight penalties in Saturday's scrimmage but it could've been flagged on every play ... for 12 men on the field.

Even with head coach Lane Kiffin in the huddle, the attack unit struggled mightily in the Vols' second dress rehearsal for the 2009 season. After being shut down by a defense that was missing such key players as linebacker Rico McCoy, tackle Wes Brown and cornerback Brent Vinson, the offense was panned by the boss.

"If you have seven players out (on defense), you would think your offense would move the ball a lot better than it did today," Kiffin said, his boyish 34-year-old face looking about as stern as it possibly can. "We have extremely high standards for our offense, and I don't think anybody in there feels very good about it. But, on the other side, we feel great about the defense.

"Eight penalties on offense, only one penalty in the first half on defense.... Obviously, we've got to do a much better job as a staff on offense and we have to keep the consistency up on defense."

UT kept no stats on the scrimmage but my unofficial play chart showed senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton completing 16 of 23 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown. Junior QB Nick Stephens was 11 of 22 for 121 yards and two TDs. Third-team QB Nick Lamaison threw an interception that was returned 35 yards for a touchdown by safety Rod Wilks.

"I thought up to today they had played extremely well," Kiffin said of the top two quarterbacks. "There were so many issues going that I don't know that I could give an exact breakdown of how well they played today. I know Jonathan's numbers ended up well and Nick's did not end up as well, but we'll have to go back, watch the film and see what was happening around them."

That last comment clearly referred to four accurate passes by Stephens that were dropped, costing him roughly 50 yards. If you add those four completions to his stat line, Stephens would've been 15 of 22 for 171 yards, instead of 11 of 22 for 121. In other words, his stat line would've been awfully close to Crompton's.

All three of the day's offensive touchdowns came on pass plays. Crompton hooked up with freshman Marsalis Teague on a 28-yard score, while Stephens' TD tosses covered 18 yards to Jeff Cottam and 21 yards to walk-on fullback Sam Edgmon.

The ground game, a bright spot in Scrimmage No. 1 last Saturday, sputtered a bit in Scrimmage No. 2. Still, sophomore Tauren Poole (eight carries for 141 yards last weekend) had another big day - nine rushes for 84 yards. A model of consistency, seven of his nine carries gained at least five yards and his longest run was a 22-yarder.

Freshman David Oku was the day's workhorse, carrying 17 times for 82 yards. He produced the scrimmage's longest run (35 yards) but nine of his carries gained 2 yards or less. He also coughed up two fumbles.

Freshman Bryce Brown carried 12 times for 64 yards with a long of 16. Senior Montario Hardesty rushed four times for 12 yards before taking a seat on the bench.

Kiffin had hoped to watch the scrimmage from the sidelines rather than the offensive huddle. With the attack units struggling, however, he couldn't stand back and do nothing.

"I tried a little bit to stay away" he said, "but that didn't work very well."

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