Oct. 15, 2011
BY JOSH PATE
Tauren Poole didn't have a smile on his face after Saturday's 38-7 loss to No. 1 LSU at Neyland Stadium. But he did have a reason to feel better.
Poole, who injured his hamstring a week ago against Georgia, came back strong with 70 yards on 19 carries against the Tigers. He scored Tennessee's only touchdown of the game.
"Tauren Poole ran really well," Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley said. "He was focused and wasn't trying to make big plays. He was jamming it up in there. And the line blocked really well. That's a real positive."
After weeks of struggling in the running game against quality defenses — particularly in losses to Florida and Georgia — the Vols (3-3, 0-3 SEC) topped the century mark as a team with 111 yards on the ground. It wasn't enough to shoot fireworks all night, but it was a positive signal to get movement on the ground against the nation's top-ranked team and one of the SEC's toughest defenses.
"The run game worked because our guys played better up front and the running back ran better," Dooley said. "If we continue that path, we're going to be fine in the run game."
Still, Poole said the team is keeping that in perspective.
"It's a loss," Poole said. "I'd rather do that and win, but I did that and lost."
On Tennessee's lone scoring drive, Poole carried the football six consecutive plays, moving the Vols from the LSU 34 to the 5. A play later, he pushed the ball into the end zone from the 2 for the touchdown.
Poole's biggest gain of 28 yards was followed by his only dark moment of the game. With the Vols down 24-7 and driving in LSU territory, Poole hesitated on an option sprint to the outside. The Tigers swarmed and dropped him for a loss of 7 yards. Tennessee then punted.
Dooley said the negative play couldn't have come at a worse time with his team knocking on the door, but he was impressed by Poole's body of work Saturday.
"That was the only play Tauren didn't look good," Dooley said. "He got the ball 19 times and 18 of them he looked really good running the ball against a great defense. I don't want to beat him up over that, but that was a big play."
Still, Poole credited the movement to the offensive line's blocking.
"They wanted to run the football," Poole said. "They told me they were going to continue to create holes. We're moving forward in the running game. They did well. I give all the credit to them. I didn't do anything. They blocked well and communicated well."
Poole also said quarterback Matt Simms' ability to help identify LSU's "Mike," or middle, linebacker was critical in setting up the blocks.
"When we know where the `Mike' is, that's all we need," Poole said. "He does a really good job of getting us in our checks. We need that as an offense. When the O-line knows where the `Mike' is, they know where to block and they did that."
For Poole and the Vols, positive signs in the running game didn't overshadow the heartbreak of an SEC loss.
"They were big, fast guys," Poole said. "We out-hit them for the most part. We just didn't put points on the board, and as a running back you want to put points on the board. You want to succeed as an offense and you want to keep your defense off the field. We couldn't do that today, and that's why the results were the way they were."