ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
some text
Tennessee defensive backs Cameron Sutton, left, and defensive end Derek Barnett celebrate stopping Utah State on 3rd down in this file photo.

KNOXVILLE -- With its front seven again focusing on whoever was lined up at tailback, Tennessee's secondary found itself on some islands for a second straight game.

It went much better for the Volunteers the second time around.

Oklahoma hit Tennessee for some big pass plays in Norman two weeks ago, but the Vols bounced back to hold Georgia's Hutson Mason to 147 passing yards and intercept him twice in Saturday's loss in Athens.

"We just learned from our mistakes," Vols cornerback Cam Sutton said after Tuesday's practice. "We know we can't keep making the same mistakes week in and week out, and just after a game, when we come back and watch film, we see what we did wrong. It's our job to correct those things and not let it happen again."

The Bulldogs' longest pass play was a 20-yard touchdown to Nick Chubb in which the freshman tailback ran a circle route out of the backfield and was one on one in coverage with defensive end Corey Vereen.

Oklahoma, the better passing team of the two ranked opponents, hit the Vols for passing plays of 45, 43, 32 and 23 yards.

"It's definitely a very big confidence builder," safety Brian Randolph said. "We gave up some explosive plays [and] that's definitely one of our goals, is to eliminate explosive plays. We feel like we did a good job during the week preparing for that and fixing our mistakes."

Freshman safety Todd Kelly intercepted one pass and broke up another, and LaDarrell McNeil broke up a third-down pass, but there were too many missed tackles by Tennessee's defensive backs, most notably Randolph's whiff on Georgia star back Todd Gurley's 51-yard touchdown run.

Gurley picked up 129 of his 208 yards in the fourth quarter, but Randolph said it was due to mental errors and mistakes rather than fatigue.

"There was definitely some missed gaps. In the back end we had a lot of missed tackles," he said, "so we've been working on that this week and we're trying to get it fixed."

Pearson iffy, Smith out

Tennessee coach Butch Jones ruled receiver Josh Smith (ankle) out for Saturday's game against Florida, but there's a chance Von Pearson (ankle) plays.

The coach said Pearson "practiced a little bit" and did some conditioning work Tuesday, and the junior college transfer, who had seven catches for 98 yards for the season when he got hurt in the second quarter against Arkansas State, was walking around Tennessee's complex after practice without a walking boot.

While Pearson remains questionable, Smith will miss his second consecutive game after being hurt against Oklahoma.

Defending Driskel

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel completed 9 of 28 passes for 93 yards with two interceptions in the Gators' last game, a humbling loss to Alabama.

The Vols have a different perspective on the 6-foot-4, 230-pound former five-star recruit, who was hurt early in last season's meeting in Gainesville. In Florida's 37-20 win in Knoxville in 2012, Driskel, in his third start, carved up Tennessee. He was 14-of-20 passing for 219 yards with touchdown throws to Jordan Reed and Frankie Hammond and 81 rushing yards on eight carries.

"He's definitely a dual-threat quarterback," Randolph said. "He's one of their best players, especially on offense. He makes plays happen when there's no plays there to be had, so we definitely have to watch out for him this week."

The other guy

Driskel's play has increased speculation that Florida could switch to freshman backup Treon Harris, a 5-11, 190-pound four-star recruit who threw touchdown passes of 70 and 78 yards in Florida's win against Eastern Michigan but hasn't played since.

The Gators had an open date to get Harris more reps, and the Vols certainly remember seldom-used backup Tyler Murphy coming off the bench following Driskel's injury to lead Florida to a win against Tennessee in 2013.

Jones said Tennessee has watched high school tape of Harris.

"You never want to chase ghosts," he said, "but you prepare and you try to be prepared as best as possible for everything."

Off the mark

On Georgia's last third-down play, it appeared Gurley went down just inside Tennessee's 30-yard line, but the Bulldogs ran the ensuing fourth-down play from the 26, and Gurley picked up 4 yards and a first down to ice the game.

Jones said that possible mistake was included among the plays Tennessee sent to the SEC office for review.

"It was something that we have reviewed, and unfortunately, in our opinion, when we saw the spot, it was probably about 3 or 4 yards different," he said. "I think that kind of changed the complexion of having fourth-and-7 and fourth-and-6 or fourth-and-2. But you know what, that's the game of football.

"We have to stop them on fourth down to put in our offense in an opportunity to win the football game."

Gurley grief?

Randolph jokingly said his teammates have not been too hard on him about getting hurdled by Gurley in the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss.

"It happens," he said. "He's a playmaker. Hey, if he wants to hop over me, he could do that. He went down after it, so that's all that matters."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT