Published September 26, 2012 - 8:35am
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It’s a tall task for Tennessee to go into Georgia’s house and pull out the win, but it could be a career-defining moment and win for Derek Dooley if the Vols can put it all together. It will take a near-perfect game for Tennessee to win, and they’ll need help from Georgia while doing so.
Here are five things that must happen for a Rocky Top Turnaround against Georgia:
1. Bring an offensive identity
Tennessee really has no clue, or it looks that way from the outside, of what they are trying to accomplish on offense. We all know they are a passing team, but the Vols have to find a resemblance of a power running game to attack defenses, keep them honest and help manage the game, especially a defense like Georgia. We know Tyler Bray really has no authority to make checks at the line of scrimmage. We also know that Marlin Lane doesn’t get to tote the rock for whatever reason. The Vols have to run for at least 135 yards, and whether that’s from Neal, Lane and others or just Neal. It has to be done. Is that too much to ask? They’re averaging over 170 now. Eight out of the last 10 seasons the team with the most rushing yards has won this game.
2. Win turnover battle
Since 2010, Tennessee’s turnover margin in conference games has been -5. Opportunistic teams win SEC football games. You have to force turnovers to win games. Look at what Mississippi State and Alabama have done this year. MSU has a greedy defense. They are +13 in turnover margin, and this is a big reason they are 4-0 on the season. Tennessee’s defense has to get greedy on Murray. Sal Sunseri will dial up some blitz packages to get pressure on Murray in the passing game, and when Murray makes a mistake, the secondary will have to capitalize on it. On the other hand, Tyler Bray can’t turn the football over on offense. He has three turnovers in the last two games – two against Florida and the pick-six last week against Akron. The Vols have to finish +2 against Georgia in turnover margin.
3. Take away something from Georgia’s offense
Tennessee never has been a really good zone-read defensive team. They fare better against teams that line right up and try to run it down their throat, and that’s what Georgia will do with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Sunseri will be multiple against Georgia’s offensive front, and the Vols have to eliminate the running game. If you get into a passing dual between Murray and Bray, I’d take my changes with Bray and company. However, Daniel McCullers has to be the man in charge in the middle. For whatever reason, Tennessee hasn’t played him much in the last two games. That has to chance, as this is a downhill power running team. Limit – you can’t stop it – Georgia’s running game, and Tennessee has a very good shot.
4. Get Cordarrelle Patterson involved more
You know how many times Patterson touched the football last week – four times…against Akron. He was the most dynamic player on the field against NC State. He totaled 165 yards rushing and receiving in week one. In the last three games he’s only totaled 196. Derek Dooley and Jim Chaney have a real weapon on their hands, but he’s only a weapon if he’s utilized correctly. If you’re not going to run the football in a power game, at least give Patterson touches on end arounds and quick screens. Patterson has to be a major factor if Tennessee wants to win. He must touch it at least 15 times on rushes, passes and returns. Game plan around his ability, because you know Hunter will get his touches, too. Do something you haven’t done yet, Dooley.
5. Better communication and sound tackling
Okay – maybe there are two reasons listed under #5, but the confusion against Florida was dismissed as “poor communication” from the linebackers on Trey Burton’s Wildcat touchdown runs. Whatever you want to call “it”, it has to be cleared up against Georgia. The Vols have the athletes to win this game and be impact players on defense, but it all goes back to fundamentals of tackling and communication. Poor communication leads to busted assignments, and Tennessee can ill-afford to have any busted assignments against Georgia. AJ Johnson, Herman Lathers and company have to have sound communication and tackling. Gurley runs through arm tackles regularly – gang tackle him.