Vols know they have to get better — and fast

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 at 12:50am

KNOXVILLE — Opponents have stopped just short of being able to name their yardage against Tennessee. Meanwhile, the Vols just keep getting stopped short on offense. The frequent allowance of big plays and third-and-short inadequacies of the offense have Tennessee (1-2) seeking countless answers this week before Saturday’s home contest against Arkansas State. “I think we had a really honest discussion about accountability and what we need to do better,” said UT coach Phillip Fulmer, 8-9 in his last 17 SEC games. “Certainly that’s to stop giving up points in the kicking game, stop giving up big plays on defense — (Florida had) 11 plays for nearly 300 yards that we gave up that we could do something about. And offensively, turning the ball over. Taking away points and also giving the other side points. We’re looking forward to going back to work as a team.” Opponents now have returned a fumble for a touchdown against the Vols in three of their past four games — each instance precipitating a UT loss. Against Florida, the Gators kept piling up points and yards until they had handed Tennessee its worst loss of the Fulmer era and worst since a 44-0 shellacking at Georgia in 1981. “When you get the so-called ‘worst loss in Fulmer’s era,’ and I was also on the 5-6 team, it’s just, it’s something I don’t like to be a part of,” senior linebacker Ryan Karl said. “I’ve got to go tell all my family when I get older that I was a part of this team, and it’s just not something I want to be a part of. We’ve got to turn this around and get in the right spots.” Though Fulmer insists the Vols are moving forward, the magnitude of the Florida loss still dominated discussions on Monday. “It was tough for everyone. Everyone knew that it’s just not how things go around here,” senior tight end Chris Brown said. “We’re not used to losing like that. We have to give Florida all the credit. They did what they needed to do. They handled everything well, and they beat us. That’s the bottom line. The coaches were hurting. We were hurting. It wasn’t a good feeling in the locker room after the game, to know that you prepared so hard, to come out and just not execute, and not get done things properly.” Fulmer said the Vols are 4 of 13 — “not nearly good enough” — this season converting third-and-short situations. Likewise, Tennessee has been unable — either because of Erik Ainge’s broken right pinkie finger or its inexperienced wide receivers — to strike for big passing plays downfield. Through 129 pass attempts this season, the Vols have just one completion of more than 40 yards — Lucas Taylor’s 43-yard play at California in the opener. “It’s probably bothered us some” not being able to pass downfield, Fulmer said. “We’ve been good at the possession passes and have had several long drives for scores. It would be nice to get one of those 30-, 40-yard down-the-field plays. But people have played a little different against us right now, people haven’t really pressed us." With tough tests remaining against Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Arkansas and Kentucky, Fulmer isn’t prepared to sound an alarm. “There’s no panic. I think there’s just a clear understanding, the players are going to hear all kinds of things all over the place,” Fulmer said. “But the fact is there’s a bunch of coaches here that are really fine coaches that have done it for a long time. It’s a tough time. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. We’ve been here before and fought through it and we’re going to fight through it again. I thought our team was extremely responsive (Monday).” PERSONNEL MOVES: Fulmer said the coaches were discussing potential lineup changes on special teams and perhaps on defense but did not yet have any changes to announce. ... Jacques McClendon worked with the first-team offensive line at right guard Monday because starting left tackle Eric Young is limited by an ankle injury. The Vols lined up Chris Scott and Anthony Parker on the left side of the line, Josh McNeil at center, McClendon and Ramon Foster. ... Tennessee’s first-team defense did not appear to have any lineup changes, with Jonathan Hefney and Jarod Parrish at safety and Marsalous Johnson and Eric Berry at cornerback.

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By: frank brown on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I said it before the start of this season and I say it again. You are seeing the beginning of the end for the Phil Fulmer era. Please retire Phil. Do not subject yourself to the abuse that you are not capable of stopping....You can no longer meet the expectations of the Vol Nation.

By: J.D. on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I think Vol fans take Fulmer for granted. As a Bama fan I would be happy for him to leave. No other TN coach has handed Bama as many losses as he has. I don't know about now, but at one time he had the highest winning percentage of any active coach.