Vol defense clutch after turnovers
Posted: Thursday, October 2, 2008 7:00 pm
By: By BETH RUCKER, Associated Press Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Some teams might worry when they’ve turned the ball over. That’s when the Tennessee Volunteers are at their best.
Tennessee (1-3) has thrown four interceptions and lost four fumbles this season, but the Vols’ defense has limited opponents to only 16 points off those turnovers.
“To be quite honest with you, over the years we’ve been our best in sudden change,” defensive coordinator John Chavis said.
The Vols, who face Northern Illinois (2-2) on Saturday, rehearse those momentum swings as much as possible. During offseason scrimmages, coaches might yell “sudden change” after the offense has been on the field for only a few plays.
That makes those sudden change times a little less of a surprise when they happen during games. Tennessee’s dominant defense helped keep Tennessee competitive in its 14-12 loss to Auburn last Saturday.
“It’s a mindset we have as a defense that we have to go out there, get a stop and get the ball back to the offense,” defensive end Chris Walker said. “That’s something our coaches preach and something we’ve bought into.”
Tennessee has allowed only one long drive following a turnover, a 12-play, 75-yard drive by Florida that resulted in a field goal after a fumble by Jonathan Crompton.
On two drives, the defense has prevented its opponent from making a first down. After UAB intercepted Crompton, Walter Fisher sacked Blazers quarterback Joe Webb for -7 yards, and UAB punted after losing a total of eight yards on the three-play drive.
Ten of the points scored off Tennessee turnovers were practically impossible to prevent. Auburn scored a touchdown after recovering the ball fumbled in the end zone on a handoff between Crompton and Arian Foster.
Florida recovered a fumble at the Tennessee 22 and kicked a field goal after running three plays for no gain.
“You would like to have the idea that you’re going to play that way on every play, but it’s got to mean something,” Chavis said. “It’s got to mean something when you’re put in that situation, and our guys have done a good job of responding because we’ve worked it.”
The Vols rank 17th nationally in total defense having allowed an average of 158 yards per game this season.
Chavis praised the overall performance of his squad against the Tigers and said he was especially pleased with the improvement by the defensive line in limiting the rushing game and pressuring the quarterback.
“The pressure up front in my opinion was the biggest difference in the second half. We got some sacks that allowed us to get off the field,” he said.
Chavis was pleased that Dennis Rogan grabbed an interception after the dangerous secondary hadn’t had one in six quarters.
He’s still looking for the Vols to recover some fumbles, though. All eight turnovers in Tennessee’s favor have come from interceptions.
“We’ve got to be able to provide our offense with a short field,” he said.