UT running game far from dazzling

UT running game far from dazzling

September 4th, 2011 by By Matt Dixon/Correspondent in Sports - College

KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee's running game woes carried into the 2011 season Saturday night against Montana.

The Volunteers began the year with more expectations for their ground attack after finishing last in the Southeastern Conference a year ago in rushing.

In the season opener against the FCS Grizzlies, UT again failed to establish a consistent running game, averaging just 2.9 yards per attempt. The Vols finished with 129 yards on 45 carries.

Senior tailback Tauren Poole got most of the work, followed by true freshman Marlin Lane. Poole carried 24 times for 98 yards, while Lane scored two touchdowns -- one rushing, one receiving. He finished with 37 yards on 10 carries and added two receptions for 16 yards, including the 9-yard score.

"We didn't run the way we need to run it," second-year UT coach Derek Dooley said. "We were hoping we could run a little bit better, but Montana did a good job."

The Grizzlies contained the Vols' ground game by getting the best of UT's offensive line.

"They whipped us at the line of scrimmage I think the whole game," Dooley said.

The Grizzlies' run defense even was responsible for putting points on the scoreboard.

After Montana downed a punt at the UT 1-yard line early in the third quarter, Poole couldn't get out of the end zone after taking the handoff, and the Grizzlies recorded a safety to make the score 28-9. It was the first safety UT had allowed since Georgia got one in 2009.

"Not every game is going to be perfect, and this game is a prime example," Poole said. "It wasn't disappointing 'cause when I was watching the film I saw how hard [Montana] played, and how disciplined they were on the defensive side."

At halftime the Vols had just 67 rushing yards on 27 carries.

Poole carried the ball 17 times in the first half for 51 yards but also fumbled twice. UT recovered both. His longest carry of the first half, 8 yards, went for a touchdown with 4:06 left in the second quarter to give the Vols a 28-0 lead after Michael Palardy's extra point. The run capped a 13-play, 96-yard drive, which was UT's longest scoring drive since the 2006 Memphis game.

That drive began after Lane muffed and recovered a punt on UT's 4-yard line. On the ensuing play, Lane gained 18 yards on his first carry as Vol, his longest of the game.

"Marlin showed what I thought he would," Dooley said. "He's got some good ability, he scored a couple touchdowns, made some guys miss, had some good, tough runs. He's going to be better and better, and we need him to."

The longest run of the night was a 28-yard carry by Poole in the fourth quarter to set up Lane's 1-yard rushing score.

Sophomore Rajion Neal and true freshman Tom Smith had carries late in the fourth quarter. Neal finished with 7 yards on two carries, while Smith added 6 yards on three carries.