ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Arkansas running back Rawleigh Williams III finds a gap in the Tennessee defense during the second quarter Saturday at Neyland Stadium. The Volunteers allowed Williams and Razorbacks running back Alex Collins to each rush for more than 100 yards as Arkansas won 24-20.

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee's football team went 36 games and nearly three years between allowing two running backs to reach the 100-yard rushing mark in the same game.

If the Volunteers aren't careful, they may not make it a full week between letting it happen again.

After the Arkansas tandem of Alex Collins and Rawleigh Williams combined for 254 yards in the Razorbacks' 24-20 win last week, Tennessee will encounter the Georgia duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

"We've definitely got to do a better job with tackling, angles and leverage to the ball," Vols safety Brian Randolph said Wednesday. "As far as Georgia compared to Arkansas, they've both got great running games. That's something we've got to focus on in practice. We've got to stop the run, tackle their backs and get off the field on third down."

Tennessee failed on two of those three fronts against Arkansas, which racked up 275 rushing yards. The Vols were victimized by a handful of missed tackles, many of which led to big plays. After Tuesday's practice, defensive coordinator John Jancek said the Vols' tackling against Arkansas was the "worst in a long time."

Though the Razorbacks couldn't finish drives in the second half, they used their big offensive line to maul Tennessee up front and wear down the Vols.

"Any time you leave plays on the field, it's kind of tough," freshman linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. said, "but overall we've just got to take it as a learning experience and get better."

While running for 154 yards, Collins found lanes to reach the second level of Tennessee's defense. When the Vols held their gaps, he also bounced a few runs to the outside and made yards there.

That's an area in which Tennessee needs to perform better against Georgia, which is No. 2 in the Southeastern Conference in rushing. The Bulldogs average 244.8 yards per game, behind LSU's 344.0 and ahead of the Vols' 225.0.

"Space is the enemy in defense," Jancek said. "When the ball gets put in space, it's man on man, and you've got to find a way to get him down. Certainly Collins is a good back, and we're going to have those same confrontations and same challenges on Saturday with the two backs, with Michel and Chubb. They're cut-back runners, a lot like Collins was.

"We're going to have guys in place. We've worked hard on the fundamentals of the tackling. Now we've got to go do it and get them down."

The Bulldogs were the last team with two running backs who reached 100 yards in the same game against Tennessee. Keith Marshall (164 yards) and Todd Gurley (130) gashed then-coordinator Sal Sunseri's defense on Sept. 29, 2012 in Athens as Georgia won 51-44.

Against Tennessee last season, Chubb and Michel combined for 49 yards on 14 carries — Chubb also turned a short pass into a 20-yard touchdown — as Gurley exploded for 208 yards.

The two sophomores enter this game second and fourth in the SEC in yards per carry, with Chubb at 8.2 and Michel at 6.7, which is bad news for a Tennessee defense leaking big plays.

"Alabama definitely played them well," Kirkland said of the Crimson Tide's defensive performance in a 38-10 win at Georgia last week. "They did a good job of making a wall instead of getting up the field and giving Nick Chubb different lanes to run with. That's probably something that we'll use."

Tennessee slipped to the bottom of the SEC in yards allowed this week, and the Vols have given up 615 yards after halftime of their three losses.

Jancek is still upbeat heading into one of Tennessee's toughest challenges of the season.

"I'm really proud of our guys," he said. "They're a resilient group, even during the games with the ups and downs of an emotional game. They're very steady. They don't get too high, they don't get too low, and they're kind of like that after we put the game to bed. We say what we have to say, we watch the film, and we look at the things we did well and we look at the things we didn't do well. We certainly want to work on those. It's been a really good group to work with.

"We've been so close, and it crushes, I know, Vol Nation, it crushes us as coaches and it crushes the players, certainly, when you're right there and you don't get those wins. But they're coming. They're coming. We're doing the right things. I believe that. I see the guys getting better."

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT