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With another ranked team up, Vols aim to stay for 2nd half

With another ranked team up, Vols aim to stay for 2nd half

Posted: Friday, October 28, 2011 7:01 pm

By BETH RUCKER
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee Volunteers have been off to plenty of good starts this season. Now it’s time for them to learn how to finish.
The Vols second-half meltdowns have resulted in three straight losses. Their goal this week is to play a complete game against No. 14 South Carolina (6-1, 4-1) with the same strong effort as their first-half performances.
“Right now we’ve got to put those games behind us, as hard as it is to do and move on,” Tennessee defensive end Marlon Walls said. “We’ve got another five or six games left so we’ve got to focus and refocus, get focused on South Carolina and try to finish. We know we’re a pretty good first-half team. We’ve got to learn how to be a pretty good second-half team.”
The misery has been on both sides of the field.
The Vols (3-4, 0-4 Southeastern Conference) were tied with Georgia and second-ranked Alabama and trailed No. 1 LSU by a manageable 10 points after the first half in each game but went on to be outscored by a combined 56-6 after halftime.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier finds no comfort in Tennessee’s second-half struggles. His own team has averaged just one second-half touchdown in games against Vanderbilt, Auburn and Mississippi State.
“They’ve played some good halves against top teams in the country. They haven’t been able to finish those games,” Spurrier said. “We know they’ll be ready for us.”
Tennessee managed to limit Alabama to 157 yards in the first half on the way to a 6-6 halftime tie. After the break, the Crimson Tide piled up 31 unanswered points and 280 yards, while the Vols failed to pick up a first down and turned the ball over twice on the way to a 37-6 finish.
“First half was outstanding,” Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. “It was fun to watch and we did something that nobody has done to those guys this season. The second half was terrible.”
LSU managed to limit the Vols to just three possessions in the second half while dominating the time of possession and slowly adding to the scoreboard in its 38-7 win.
Georgia managed to score its two second-half touchdowns against Tennessee in less than four minutes, but the speed only seemed to deflate Tennessee’s hopes for a late-game comeback.
The Vols say the problems aren’t because they’re tired or going soft during halftime.
It’s a matter of staying mentally strong when things inevitably don’t go their way on the field.
“It’s just lack of focus. I guess the pressure is getting to us when the game is getting late, I guess guys getting kind of gloomy, myself included,” Walls said. “Whatever it is we’ve got to get rid of it. We’ve got to learn how to execute for four quarters.”
The struggles played into Dooley’s decision to play with the starting lineup in advance of the Gamecocks’ visit. True freshman Justin Worley, who has played just five snaps all season, will start at quarterback, while freshman offensive guard Marcus Jackson and freshman free safety Brian Randolph will start after proving to be strong backups.
“I’m making these personnel decisions on trying to win football games. Until you get consistent performance, if you just keep doing the same thing, you are going to get the same results. Sometimes you keep doing the same things, but you’re seeing progress that a lot of the fans don’t see, whether it’s in practice or little things in a game so you stay with it. But other times you don’t see the progress you need to see as a coach, so you have to make a change.”
Published in The Messenger 10.28.11

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