Tennessee seeks to bounce back against winless UMass
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee’s challenge this week has been focusing on Massachusetts when everyone around town asks about what went wrong against Florida.
The Volunteers acknowledge they’re frustrated over a 26-20 loss to the 20th-ranked Gators that was decided on a 63-yard touchdown pass as time expired. But they say they’re ready to move on.
”Once you’re on the football field, it’s your sanctuary,” Tennessee defensive tackle Kendal Vickers said. ”Once you’re there, you don’t have much time for thinking about the past.”
The game Saturday represents a chance for Tennessee (2-1) to try fixing its red-zone issues and kicking problems that arose at Florida before the Volunteers resume Southeastern Conference competition next week against No. 11 Georgia.
The Vols can’t get caught looking back at the Florida game or looking ahead to Georgia’s visit.
”We suffered every gamut of emotions you can, but you know what?” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. ”It’s time to go. It’s go time. That’s what makes football. We live in a week-to-week season. We live in a week-to-week life.”
UMass (0-4) faced three SEC teams last year and was competitive in each of those games.
The Minutemen lost 24-7 at Florida and 34-28 at South Carolina and fell 47-35 to Mississippi State at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL’s New England Patriots. UMass led Mississippi State at halftime and only trailed Florida 10-7 heading into the fourth quarter.
UMass is hoping the experiences at Florida and South Carolina can help the Minutemen understand the atmosphere they’ll encounter at Neyland Stadium.
”We talked a little bit about that, of making sure that we get off to a good start,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. ”It doesn’t mean we’ve got to score a bunch of points. We just can’t gift wrap anything for the opponent on both sides of the ball.”
Here are some things to watch in the UMass-Tennessee game.
KICKING WOES: UMass’ Michael Schreiner has missed all four of his field-goal tries this season, even though he doesn’t have a single attempt from beyond 39 yards. Tennessee went 1 of 4 on field-goal attempts against Florida with Aaron Medley handling the shorter kicks and Brent Cimaglia trying from longer distances. Jones has said he will continue rotating the two kickers.
STRUGGLING RUN DEFENSES: Tennessee’s John Kelly leads the SEC in rushing and could have a big day against a UMass defense that allows 187.2 yards rushing per game and 4.6 yards per carry. Tennessee is tied for 122nd nationally in run defense and is allowing 275 yards rushing per game and 5.4 yards per carry.
PENN STATE REUNION: UMass’ top receiver is 6-foot-5 tight end Adam Breneman, a Penn State transfer. Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop was Penn State’s defensive coordinator when Breneman was with the Nittany Lions. Breneman has 24 receptions for 369 yards this season after catching 70 passes for 808 yards and eight touchdowns last year.
RED-ZONE WORRIES: Tennessee scored a total of three points on three trips to the red zone at Florida and drew plenty of criticism for continually passing inside the Gators’ 10-yard line rather than handing off to Kelly. Tennessee’s red-zone play calling will draw plenty of scrutiny Saturday.
FORD’S THROWING: UMass quarterback Andrew Ford, who began his college career at Virginia Tech, has thrown for 301 yards per game to rank 20th among all Football Bowl Subdivision players. The junior left-hander had a career-high 377 yards passing last week in a 29-21 loss to Temple. Ford and Breneman were teammates at Cedar Cliff High School in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.
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