October 11, 2008

Penalties doom Vols and other notes

ATHENS, Ga. -- The 458 total yards amassed by Georgia's offense Saturday afternoon inside Sanford Stadium were more than enough to dispatch Tennessee, 26-14.

The extra 97 yards courtesy UT penalties simply added insult to injury for the Vols, who suffered their fourth loss in six games. Never did the penalties loom larger than in what proved to be the game-clinching touchdown drive for Georgia just moments before halftime. Tennessee was whistled for two 15-yard penalties -- one on DeAngelo Willingham, the other Demetrice Morley -- on the Bulldogs' dispiriting 97-yard jaunt.

"Killed us. Absolutely killed us," head coach Phillip Fulmer said of the sequence of events after UT had whittled its deficit to 13-7. "And I think there were two penalties that kept that alive, that drive alive. Unbelievable. Good drive by them, but we sure helped them."

And while Gerald Jones continues to emerge as a leader for the Vols, he didn't mind admonishing his teammates for the unnecessary penalties -- and calling foul on others.

"I think it's frustration based on letting somebody get to you with what they're saying during the game," Jones said of some of the Vols' four personal-foul, 15-yard penalties. "Or it could just be being too physical. You say being too physical? When a man's going out of bounds, let him go instead of trying to knock the crap out of him. Now some of them calls, I think they were b.s. Honestly, I really do, and I'm going to speak my mind. For the most part, we were roughing people up after the play. That's just lack of staying focused."

Though the one personal foul on Morley was debatable, the Vols had more penalty problems than any good football team should expect to deal with.

Morley, Britton Colquitt, Willingham and Gerald Williams were all whistled for 15-yard penalties, and all were costly. Fulmer was exasperated, but at a loss.

"I told them we were killing ourselves. What else would you say? We had four (players called for fouls) I think and I addressed all four of them on the sideline," the head coach said. "I Talked about it at halftime. As poorly as we were playing in some areas we were very much in the ball game."

More Frustration Talk

After yet another game when the offense simply didn't look capable of competing against good SEC teams Fulmer was bombarded with questions on the reasons why, and whether or not he felt like new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson was getting the job done.

Asked specifically about Clawson, Fulmer declined to put any specific blame on the Vols' new coordinator.

"All of us need to do better. When something's not right all of us need to do better," Fulmer said when asked about Clawson. "If it's one thing you change it, if it's five things you fix them. You change what you need to change. It's all of our responsibility; players, coaches, coordinators, head coach, managers, trainers, equipment guys, writers, whoever.

"I'm involved with the offense every day. The plans are good, they're sound. We just don't execute like we need to."


Playing For Pride

With no chance at playing for the SEC East title and half the season left to go, it's more than reasonable to wonder how this team will respond.

All the players were saying the right things after the game, but it's a question that won't be answered definitively until the Vols take the field next week against Mississippi State.

"It's all about pride right now. We just can't lay down and let the rest of the season go by," Eric Berry said. "We've got to keep working. We've got to cut down on the mistakes, that's the bottom line. It's all about heart."

Second-Guessing

Though it likely wouldn't have altered the outcome, considering all the problems -- self-caused and otherwise -- Fulmer's decision to punt with 13:53 left in the game and the Vols trailing 23-14 is the kind of move that will come under some scrutiny. The Vols faced fourth-and-1 at their own 35.

As it turned out, Georgia kept the ball for 10 minutes, 55 seconds following the punt and tacked on a field goal to the final margin of victory.

"I thought about it hard, but it was still a two-score game with more than 13 minutes left," Fulmer said of the decision at the time. "If you give a good offensive team the ball right there and they score the game goes to three scores and it's hard.

"I looked at it hard but our short-yardage hasn't exactly been one of those things that you just feel the best about."

Injuries

Chris Walker - lower back, x-rays negative
Walter Fisher - turf toe
Nevin McKenzie - left knee

Ignore it

Wide receiver Gerald Jones knows there will be plenty of speculation and criticism of this team. And when asked how to deal with it, the Oklahoma native said the bottom line is you can't listen to it.

"You ignore it," Jones said. "We have a season to play out. We are not worried about who wants Fulmer fired or who thinks Dave Clawson isn't calling the right plays. We are not worried about any of that. We have a season to play and in the end whatever happens, happens. I truly doubt ... I am about 95-percent sure coach Fulmer isn't going to get fired. He has done to many things for this school. No one is perfect. Everyone has a bad season."

Tragic week

Safety Eric Berry admitted that the defense was probably not as dialed in as they needed to be on Saturday and shared that it had been a difficult week in the secondary.

"I don't think we were focused from a defensive standpoint," Berry said. "In the first half, they ran a post pass on me in the end zone that they dropped. We just weren't focused.

"There have been a lot of deaths on the team. Coach Slade's father died on Thursday. Rashan's (Haralson, secondary graduate assistant) father died the day before. It has been pretty tough this week."

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