Tennessee Volunteers: 5 Keys to Week 3 at No. 2 Oregon Ducks
Tennessee Volunteers: 5 Keys to Week 3 at #2 Oregon
Although it has been a couple years, both programs are very much in the same position as before. The No. 2 Ducks are poised to reach the National Championship this year, while the Vols are just trying to rebuild their program.
Three years ago, Derek Dooley was the man in charge, trying to prove himself. Now, it is head coach Butch Jones at the reigns. He stands in just about the same position as Dooley three years ago: Trying to prove himself to Vol Nation.
This week could prove the impact Jones has had on bringing the Vols together. The Vols are 2-0, a great start under Jones, but the real test starts this week against the Ducks. For Jones, a win over Austin Peay and Western Kentucky won’t cut it. He has to prove himself in big games unlike his past couple predecessors like Dooley and Lane Kiffin.
Although the Vols are not expected to win, keeping the score close could speak volumes, not just for Jones, but for bringing confidence to a fan base that has more questions than answers. Even that could prove to be an upward battle with the ridiculously-fast Oregon offense headed by quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back De’Anthony Thomas.
So what can the Vols do to keep pushing forward and keep the score close? Here are the five keys for the Vols Week 3 against the Ducks.
Get the Run Going
The combo of Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane at running back could prove helpful to a successful offensive game strategy against the Ducks. Neal has been averaging 6.9 yards per carry this season, the best in his career thus far. In addition, Lane is on the same page, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Although they will be facing a tougher defense, both Neal and Lane need to step it up to compensate for the lack of accuracy of quarterback Justin Worley.
Week 2 against Western Kentucky, the Vols defense was able to capitalize on both interceptions and fumbles – seven turnovers in all. In fact, the Vols lead the nation with nine takeaways. This will be the difference-maker in the game. If the Vols can force turnovers or capitalize on the generally mistake-free Ducks, they have a chance to keep the score close.
Control the Clock
The Vols are averaging 27:24 in time of possession per game, while the Ducks are averaging 21:25. The problem with Oregon is their ability to drive down the field so quickly. So even though their time of possession is low, their productivity is unbelievable. The Vols will need to try to maximize their time of possession and give the defense enough time to rest between drives.
Strong Offensive Line
The O-line will have to stay strong to protect Worley and give him the best chance to make plays. As history shows, Worley takes a while to warm up and adjust to game-time situations. So, the line will have to pull together and give him an opportunity to adjust. In addition, a strong line can help get the run game going as well.
Defense, Defense, Defense!
If there was ever a time for the defense to prove that they have improved, it will be against the Ducks. Oregon has been running an average of 69 plays per game and roughly 550 yards per game. The Vols have a serious challenge, but the defense is talented.
Last week, there were four players that made an impact: DB Brian Randolph made two interceptions and LB Brent Brewer made another. In addition, DBs Cameron Sutton and Justin Coleman both returned their picks for touchdowns. Randolph was declared SEC Player of the Week for this performance. If this trend continues, the defense may be able to hold the Ducks to fewer points.