Vols' defense focused on improving against the run - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Vols' defense focused on improving against the run

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WRCB) -- Derek Dooley didn't need to watch the film to know where Tennessee struggled in Saturday's loss at Georgia.

It was easy to see his team's problems from the sideline.

"There were a lot of mistakes," he said following the game. "We obviously have a lot of issues on defense stopping the run."

Even that may be an understatement.

Georgia racked up 282 yards rushing against UT's defense, with co-SEC Freshmen of the Week Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall racking up 264 of them and four touchdowns.

The poor effort came just two weeks after Florida rushed for more than 300 against Tennessee, meaning the Vols have given up more than 600 yards rushing against two SEC opponents this season.

"We've played two top ten teams and they've whipped us," Dooley said. "When they get through to the secondary, it's like there's no one who's able to make a tackle."

Dooley said losing safety Brian Randolph to a season-ending knee injury against the Gators was certainly a huge blow, for he was the team's best tackler in the secondary.

However, Dooley said there's no excuse for UT giving up five touchdowns or 50-plus yards in its last three games, including rushing scores of 51, 72 and 75 against the Bulldogs.

"And it's not like it's because of us running some crazy pressure. They're doing it against our base defense," Dooley said.

Added linebacker Herman Lathers: "It's all about assignments. We need to play as a team and hold each other accountable. There's just mistakes you can't make if you want to win a ballgame."

It doesn't get any easier for Tennessee with Mississippi State's five-yard-per-carry average next up in a 9 p.m. ET kickoff on October 13. After that, top-ranked Alabama's dynamic tailback duo of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon will come to Knoxville.

If there is a positive, it's that Dooley believes the mistakes can be corrected, especially with the Vols enjoying an off week before three more games against ranked opponents.

He said coaches will evaluate the film and personnel, and changes will be made if needed. One change he already announced was that true freshman safety LaDarrell McNeil will see more playing time.

"Our guys are more capable than what they showed," he said. "I'm not down on them for what they are. I'm down on them for what they did."

Dooley not surprised by Vols' rushing attack
On the flip side of Tennessee's defensive woes, Dooley was extremely pleased by the Vols' ability to run the ball offensively against Georgia.

However, he was hardly surprised.

"Oh yeah. Shocked. I'm stunned," Dooley said sarcastically when asked about his team's production on the ground. "I think we've been running the ball good all year. I don't know why y'all think we haven't.

"This group gets criticized every week, but we're averaging 180 a game. What does a team have to do?"

Raijon Neal's 104-yard effort pushed him across the century mark for a second straight week, and Tennessee rushed for 197 yards as a team against UGA.

Dooley said the plan is to stay balanced every week, especially in SEC play, though he knows they failed to do that against Florida.

"That's what we have to do to win these games. I've said it 100 times," he said. "We lost patience in the one game and we got hammered for it, but I told you guys that. We're going to be patient, and today we were, and we executed. We showed what we're capable of, so we didn't surprise anybody except for you guys."

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