After two long and disappointing road trips, Butch Jones and his team return to Neyland Stadium looking for win number three against a South Alabama team that has found some wrinkles on offense after a disappointing season opening loss. Here are our four keys for the Vols in what we like to call The Cheat Sheet.
Contain the edge - It was a struggle at times a week ago against Florida as back up quarterback Travis Murphy rushed for 84 yards on 10 carries and the Gator tailbacks repeatedly bounced plays outside the tackle box for good yardage. South Alabama has running threat at the quarterback position both on designed runs and in scramble situations. In their upset win over Western Kentucky, quarterback Brandon Bridge had 6 carries for 42 yards. Tennessee must protect the edges.
Protect the ball - It goes without saying, Tennessee cannot afford to turn the ball over. South Alabama rallied to beat Western Kentucky thanks to three Hilltopper interceptions in the second half. Last week at Florida, Tennessee turned it over 6 times which led to 17 Florida points. With an offense that has little margin for error, the Vols cannot afford self inflicted wounds. They must take care of the ball. The last two weeks, Tennessee has opened the game with a turnover. Ball security for this offense is a premium.
Make plays - It's simple when this team makes big plays on offense they find success. When they have to plod their way the length of the field, it's a struggle. In their first half scoring drive against Oregon, the Vols it a 51 yard pass. In their two scoring drives against Florida, Tennessee had splash plays (plays over 20 yards in both). Against Western Kentucky, 4 of the Vols 6 scoring drives had at least one play of over 20 yards in it. It's why the coaching staff keeps harping on splash plays. When they occur Tennessee's offense wins.
Be intense- A week ago, Tennessee played at an SEC level. The Vol defense was physical and Tennessee clearly invested on the practice field a week ago to be ready to play. This team must learn from that and build on it. South Alabama can create some issues with a mobile quarterback and a tight end that's successful in the middle of the field. Tennessee is a better team, but the Vols can't rest on that or assume anything. They must build off the intense and effort they played with a week ago this week regardless of who the competition is.