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October 22, 2011

Third-degree burns: Post-halftime dooms Vols

Tuscaloosa, Ala.-- Maybe Derek Dooley will petition the NCAA to do away with third quarters. They've hurt his program like any violation has the past two seasons and it was no different Saturday night inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, where second-ranked Alabama rolled 37-6.

In the Vols' 11 losses in the Dooley era, Tennessee has been outscored 136-28 in the third quarter. Against the Tide, Tennessee matched last year's outing and gave up 21 points.

"We've got to be a second-half football team. Story of this season, story of this game," running back Tauren Poole said. "I have no clue, it's every game. I have no clue what's going on. All I can do is continue to play."

While the Vols' defense gave up an astounding 190 yards on 15 plays and gave up nine first downs and three touchdowns. But, Tennessee's defense shouldn't shoulder the full blame. The Vols failed to respond whenever Alabama landed a blow.

"They came out in the second half and put it on us on the first drive. Hit a shot their second drive and at that point it's 20-6 and we've got a ton of ball left and we lost our spunk and it was disappointing to see," Dooley said.

Tennessee's spunk seemed totally lost when the Vols failed to convert fourth-and-inches when the score was just 13-6. Quarterback Matt Simms rushed for no game and after that drive Tennessee would gain 32 yards the rest of the night. In fact, the nine yard drive and the one following would be the longest drive of the second half for the Vols.

"We did what we said we weren't going to do, and that's get affected when something bad happens in the game," Dooley added.

The first thing that went wrong was Tennessee went three-and-out to start the quarter with the chance to have its first lead against an SEC team in the second half. Alabama quickly took advantage and scored on a five-play, 75-yard drive that would foreshadow the impending doom for the Vols.

"We expected them to come right out and run it down our throats a little bit because that's what they've done in the past. But, they came out with some play action and came out and threw it on us," linebacker Austin Johnson said.

And when the defense gave up another score after the failed fourth-down conversion, it seemed to be the point of no return for Tennessee.

"We have to do a better job as a team of handling adversity like that in the second half. When they got up 20-6, it just seemed like we lost our juice and it just pored on after that," center Alex Bullard said.

POOLE RUNS HARD AGAIN

Through the first four SEC games of the its season, Alabama gave up just 101 total rushing yards to Arkansas, Florida, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss.

But, the Vols almost totaled that Saturday night as they rushed for 92 yards. Again Tauren Poole was the star for the Vols' ground game as he rushed for 67 yards on 19 carries.

"He ran good. We ran the ball really well in the first half. We had 61 yards (at halftime) and you say, 'well that's not much.' It is against this team. He had 53 yards in the first half. They were tough yards, he was jamming it in there,” Dooley said.

Poole's yardage was the most by an individual player this year against Alabama. But, it still was no consolation prize for Poole because of the loss.

"I'm looking to win and that's not happening. I have to stay positive and continue to lead these guys as best I can," Poole said. "I feel like I had to (run hard). I just had to take what they gave me and did the entire game and I've got to continue to do that, take what defenses give you."

SECOND AND NOWHERE

Tennessee seemed to win the battle of first down for the better part of the first half. But, the Vols were woefully sorry on second down. The Vols had nine second down plays in the first half and accumulated just 10 yards. It didn't get much better in the second half as the Vols had 5 plays for 8 yards.


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