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 KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Linebacker Jerod Mayo was depressed. Coach Phillip Fulmer's stomach ached. Linebacker Ryan Karl was just plain angry.
They couldn't shake Tennessee's 22 missed tackles in its 45-31 loss to California on Saturday.
``On Sunday, you get that sick feeling in your stomach and you're mad,'' Fulmer said Tuesday. ``You just can't get it out of your system.''
The loss, the first to open a season since the Volunteers fell 25-23 at UCLA in 1994, was enough to drop Tennessee from No. 15 to No. 24 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll. California moved up two spots to No. 10.
Coaches came to practice this week with a laundry list of things they want fixed before facing Southern Mississippi in Saturday's home opener, including tackling, kickoff coverage, pass defense and keeping the opposing offense off the field.
``We have enough talent. We have enough speed. We're veteran enough,'' quarterback Erik Ainge said. ``It doesn't get any more important than executing.''
Special teams players botched four tackles trying to stop DeSean Jackson, who bolted 77 yards for his sixth career punt return for a touchdown. Fulmer kept the special teams squad late after practice on Monday to work on covering kickoff and punt returns.
The defense also struggled to contain Justin Forsett, who rushed for 156 yards and a score.
``We didn't allow big plays by air, but I don't like getting run on,'' defensive coordinator John Chavis said. ``I'm not into making excuses. We didn't play well.''
Chavis said he wishes he could put his finger on one reason his unit struggled so much. He said the defense made fundamental errors, gave up plays it typically would not, and was at times simply out-muscled by California.
Mayo said it was mistakes by the older, experienced members of the defense rather than the play of the rookies that allowed Cal to amass 45 points, the most Tennessee has allowed since 1995 in a 62-37 loss at Florida.
Freshman safety Eric Berry played his way into a starting role against Southern Miss with three solo tackles and four assists, and sophomore tackle Dan Williams offered more pressure than coaches had expected.
Mayo said he's not worried about the older players because he knows they have the ability to tackle and will correct their problems.
``That game knocked a lot of rust off of us,'' Mayo said. ``But if we don't get this tackling thing fixed, it's going to be a long season.''
Notes: Quarterback Erik Ainge sustained no further damage to his pinkie finger against California. Ainge jammed his finger taking snaps during practice Aug. 27 and has kept it taped to his ring finger during practice and the game. Trainers expect the injury to take three to four weeks to fully heal. ... Doctors will decide whether defensive end Xavier Mitchell will play Saturday. Mitchell suffered a concussion against California and said he still has a headache but is ready to play. ... Tennessee was called for only three penalties Saturday after averaging nearly five penalties per game in 2006.
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