|No. 22 Tennessee needs a strong run defense to stop SEC's top rushing duo|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 07 November 2007 02:02|
Arkansas' Darren McFadden and Felix Jones could be next.
Consider Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis optimistic, though.
``It's a big opportunity, there's no doubt about that. I may be saying something differently after the game, but we're excited about going out and seeing how we can match up,'' Chavis said Tuesday.
The No. 22 Vols (6-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) will have to come up with one of their best defensive performances of the season to stop McFadden and Jones, the top two rushers in the SEC.
Tennessee fares a bit better against the run than against passing, giving up an average 167.7 yards rushing per game compared to 244.8 yards passing. But Arkansas (6-3, 2-3) boasts the second-best rushing offense in the nation, putting up an average 315.9 yards a game.
``Arkansas is one of the most impressive teams I've seen offensively,'' coach Phillip Fulmer said. ``They just totally manhandled South Carolina's defense. McFadden is easily one of the best players in the nation.''
Manhandle they did last week, posting 542 yards rushing and 109 yards passing against the Gamecocks. McFadden ran for an SEC record-tying 321 yards, nearly 100 yards more than any other player has rushed for in a game this season, and Jones added 166.
``To be honest, I couldn't believe it,'' defensive end Xavier Mitchell said. ``South Carolina is a pretty sound defense most of the time. The way that they just kind of tore threw them, it kind of took me by surprise. But anything can happen on Saturday.''
The Vols' defense fared well against Arkansas last year for three out of four quarters, holding the Razorbacks to just 13 points, but had a miserable second quarter in the 31-14 loss. McFadden had 181 yards and two touchdowns in the game and Jones added 72 yards.
Chavis said a quarter like that second quarter, during which Tennessee gave up two rushing touchdowns to McFadden and a passing touchdown from McFadden to Marcus Monk, is when it's important for players to be confident. Confidence in overcoming mistakes is how a team can swing the momentum back in their favor, he said.
It also comes down to fundamentals, the coaches say. Tackling well, closing gaps at the line of scrimmage and getting away from offensive blocks can stop a good runner, they said.
``You've got to have 11 guys that are playing well,'' Chavis said. ``In this situation, you can have 10 guys doing a great job, and if you've got one guy that's getting blocked or losing his battle, it could end up being a big play.''
Secondary coach Larry Slade was more to the point: ``I don't care how they get them on the ground, let's get them on the ground.''
Auburn held the Razorbacks to an impressive 67 yards rushing in October in their 9-7 win, but while giving Auburn credit, Chavis blames some of that lack of production on a rib injury McFadden suffered against Chattanooga the week before.
Still, Chavis knows there are two faces to both Arkansas' offense and Tennessee's defense. There's the Arkansas offense that manhandled South Carolina and the offense that was shut down by Auburn.
For Tennessee, there's the defense that gave up a painful 255 yards rushing to Florida with quarterback Tim Tebow leading the way. There's also the defense that held Georgia running backs Thomas Brown, Kregg Lumpkin and Knowshon Moreno - now the league's third-best rusher behind the Arkansas duo - to a combined 69 yards.
``We've had some moments that we've played very well against some very good football teams, and then we've had some moments we've been pretty bad,'' Chavis said. ``The biggest thing we need to do now is make sure that we play 60 minutes and get off the field when we need to get off the field.''