Sept. 10, 2013
By Alex Cate KNOXVILLE, Tenn.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.-- Most teams won't accumulate 425 rushing yards in two games total. Oregon is averaging 425 yards rushing per game.
The high octane offense installed by former head coach Chip Kelly is still just as lethal under new skipper Mark Helfrich. But just how do you stop a team whose quarterback, Marcus Mariota, and running back, De'Anthony Thomas, both are potential Heisman Trophy candidates?
"Just keep pounding away and bend the gaps," said linebacker Brent Brewer. "They keep doing the same plays over and over again to make you make mistakes, make you get tired so we just have to keep pounding. Just do our assignments right."
The #2 Ducks welcome the Vols into Eugene, Ore. leading the country in points per game at 62.5.
When the two teams last met - a 2010 game in Knoxville - Oregon swiftly sped their way to a 35 point second half and a 48-13 victory overall.
The Vols however, are hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
"Just gang talking, everybody getting to the ball at the same time, staying on the running back, hitting them in the mouth," said Brewer about stopping the Oregon offense. "That's the only way."
A big challenge for Tennessee head coach Butch Jones will be to prepare his team for the extremely up-tempo offense run by Helfrich. Oregon has averaged 70 snaps per game but has managed to only use just more than 20:30 of the game clock.
"We always practice tempo at practice and we just came out and did it some more," said linebacker Dontavis Sapp. "Try to line up and relay the plays and get adjusted and communicate."
Execution will be important when the Vols look to halt the whirlwind offense. Autzen Stadium in Eugene is known as one of the loudest stadiums in college football and challenges teams to communicate with each other well.
"We've just got to be great tacklers in open space," said Sapp. "Read our keys, not limit the (missed assignments) we have, the mental assignment errors we have. Just go out and play football and play our game."
Although early in the season, the Volunteers share the national lead with nine forced turnovers. They'll get back defensive end Jacques Smith this weekend and have linebacker Curt Maggitt listed as a possibility to return as well.
"I think as we continue to move forward it's taking care of the little things," said Jones. "And the little things add up to the big things and it's the small details, it's the discipline that it takes to go on the road playing a tremendous opponent, a great opponent in a hostile environment and I think that's been the message is the focus, the discipline football, being fundamentally sound."
Jones said the Vols expect to have to keep the same personnel on the field for extended time, maybe even an entire drive. He mentioned Daniel McCullers as one of those players who will have to stay on the field longer.
"That's kind of that mental conditioning and toughness we talk about each and every day in our program that is expected and that's what we demand, that excellence," said Jones. "There should be no drop off, whether it's play six or play one."