KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley didn’t mince words after a 38-7 loss to LSU at Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
“They pounded us,” Dooley said. “I don’t know any other way to say it.”
The pounding mounted in the second half, when LSU ran the ball 33 times for 196 yards.
LSU allowed UT only three offensive possessions in the second half, none of which produced any points.
“That second half, they kept hitting us,” Dooley said. “I don’t know what else to do. I could get up there and scream at them, but that’s not going to help.”
A better effort might have helped.
UT starting defensive end Marlon Walls said the Vols relaxed when they trailed 17-7 at halftime.
“I don’t know why,” said Walls, who finished with one tackle. “We do that for some reason. We come out and play a good half and we get relaxed.
“We knew what was coming. We knew they were going to run that power right at us.”
And LSU kept running the ball with quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who rushed 14 times for 73 yards and a touchdown.
“Jordan was the guy that was hurting us a lot on the quarterback runs,” Dooley said. “He’s a big stature guy.”
“This is a stature game. It’s big guys hitting you, and you’ve got to have big guys that can hold up for four quarters.”
UT also needed a mistake-free game to keep up with LSU.
But two first-half interceptions by quarterback Matt Simms and untimely penalties widened the gap created by LSU’s talent.
“I am really disappointed in myself for the two first-half turnovers,” said Simms, who was 6-of-20 passing for 128 yards. “You can’t do that against a good team.”
UT was able to run the ball against LSU’s defense, continuing a familiar theme.
The Vols entered the game having rushed for a combined negative-29 yards in two SEC games. UT managed 111 yards on the ground against LSU.
Running back Tauren Poole led UT with 70 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
“I was going to run hard and run for this team,” Poole said. “We are moving forward with the run game. I give all the credit to the offensive line. They played well.”
UT’s cornerbacks didn’t.
Marsalis Teague seemed to struggle throughout the game, most notably when LSU receiver Rueben Randle took a short pass late in the second quarter and ran 45 yards to setup Drew Alleman’s 18-yard field goal.
Safety Prentiss Waggner, a former Clinton High standout, was forced to move to corner in the second half after he returned from a first-half shoulder injury.
“We were struggling at corner,” Dooley said. “Their guys were up on our guys at the perimeter. It’s the same old deal.”
And some of UT’s mistakes were the same ones that have plagued the Vols all season.
The difference this time appeared to be LSU’s influence.
“Some of the mistakes we made, it’s because they’ve got a good guy who gets us,” Dooley said. “We probably made more mistakes out there than we should’ve, but it gets tough.”
And it will be tough for UT when the Vols travel to Alabama next Saturday.
Walls expressed concern about UT’s ability to bounce back after another disappointing loss.
“We’ve got to get on it,” he said. “We’ve got to change it, and we’ve got to change it now.”
It’s also a sign that UT has more work to do in recruiting.
Dooley said LSU’s talent created a mismatch that UT couldn’t handle.
“Their guy’s better than our guy,” he said. “I don’t know what else to say. Eventually they just wear you down.”