KNOXVILLE -- Between the opponent and the simplistic approach, the University of Tennessee football team likely was going to be limited in how much it could really take from its season opener.
That was before the Volunteers brought back memories from last season by averaging around three yards per carry in Saturday night's 42-16 home win over Football Championship Subdivision foe Montana.
The concerns about UT's poor night running the football were a major topic of discussion after the game, and though there was more than one explanation for the struggles, the bottom line is simple.
"We've got to do better," coach Derek Dooley said. "We've got to do better job of coaching, getting them in the right play and we've got to run the ball better. I'm very concerned, but I knew this wasn't going to be easy. Montana's got some big, thick, stout guys that have played a lot of snaps. I knew this was going to be a good test for us.
"We're going to get better. We're young up front and this was a good game for us to go through."
Tailbacks Tauren Poole, Marlin Lane, Rajion Neal and Tom Smith carried a combined 39 times for 146 yards, but the Vols struggled to pick up small chunks of yardage at a time. UT's offensive line failed to move the Grizzlies' all-senior front four, and Poole admitted he missed some holes.
"I think it was my eye discipline all game," Poole said, "because I was trying to be everywhere because I'm seeing everything and I'm seeing all these stunts and stuff, but I've just got to be focused on hitting the hole and getting positive yardage.
"If anything I was disappointed in my play. I've got to better -- me and Marlin, the entire running game. We will be better."
Dooley noted Montana gave UT's offensive line some problems with its pre-snap shifts and with blitzes and stunts after the snap. Using a new routine this season, the Vols watched film and practiced on Sunday to work out the kinks, and improving the rushing attack certainly received plenty of attention.
"It's a lot easier and a lot better, actually, because you can look at [the game film] for a fact and see what you're doing wrong with the right steps or too short of a step and stuff like that," sophomore tackle Ja'Wuan James said. "We did [expect better]. Coming into the game that was a big focus.
"We keep saying this isn't last year. We've got some older guys now. We got on the sidelines and in halftime and we talked to each other like we've got to pick it up, we're not knocking people off the ball [and] we've just got to step it up."
Dooley wasn't dishing out praise for some of his defensive reserves, who allowed Montana to go right down the field on an 82-yard drive in the fourth quarter for the game's final score. The Vols used a handful of players defensively, but that drive was indicative of how much UT must avoid injuries.
"We're still thin," he said. "You guys see what happened when the twos weren't in there-- we got gutted right down the field. We got a thin squad and we've got to be able to hold up. Our backups didn't look too swinging out there."
UT had a game delayed for storms for the third time in six seasons (Oregon 2010 and Marshall 2006), but Dooley said it was the sixth time he's been through a lightning delay. He also said it didn't affect the Vols.
"It's like old hat to me," Dooley said. "Guys really managed it very well. They were relaxed, we just shut it down in the locker room, had a good plan coming out and it showed. I was pleased with them, being as young as they were, to manage it professionally."
Justin Hunter might have been the most relaxed: the sophomore receiver said he watched the movie "Year One" and ate cookies during the one-hour, 43-minute delay.
Odds and ends
Former UT and Baylor School offensive lineman Jacques McClendon was cut by the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, but the Detroit Lions picked him up and added him to the 53-man roster...the Vols reported no injuries on Saturday night...according to the game's participation report, UT used nine defensive linemen fairly regularly on Saturday night, and all four cornerbacks -- Justin Coleman, Marsalis Teague, Izauea Lanier and Art Evans -- saw significant snaps...UT played 13 true freshmen, with the lone surprise being defensive lineman Trevarris Saulsberry...the Vols won't practice today, but Dooley will address the media at noon.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...
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