The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

September 25, 2013

Vols' defense struggling in third-down situations

(Continued)

The third-down problems caused enough concern that Walls went into the film room to see what he could have done differently in those situations.

"The first thing you've got to do as a defensive guy is look at yourself and see what you did on that play," Walls said. "What could I have done a little bit better? The defensive line, we were very close to impacting the quarterback on those plays. Just a swipe at the ball or the grab of a jersey could impact that throw."

Walls did get to the quarterback in one notable instance. On a third-and-3 play, Walls hit Florida's Jeff Driskel and forced him into throwing an interception that Devaun Swafford returned 62 yards for the game's first touchdown. Driskel broke his lower right leg in the process, knocking him out for the rest of the season.

But more often than not, the Vols haven't arrived in time to make the play.

Part of the problem is that Tennessee has faced mobile quarterbacks the last two weeks in Florida's Tyler Murphy and Oregon's Marcus Mariota. Murphy replaced Driskel last week and ran for the first down in a third-down situation five times, including a 7-yard touchdown on a third-and-6 play.

Although South Alabama has converted only 38 percent of its third-down opportunities, the Jaguars use two quarterbacks who can run. Ross Metheny has 22 carries for 99 yards and three touchdowns, while Brandon Bridge has rushed for 101 yards and one touchdown on 15 attempts.

"We have to do a great job," Jones said. "We have to be ready for anything and everything come Saturday."

Particularly on third down.

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