KNOXVILLE - On 537 of the 565 plays the Tennessee defense has been on the field, its opponents have averaged just 3.78 yards. On the other 28 plays, however, opponents have averaged 37.7 yards per play.
While Arkansas certainly has the ability to post plays that mirror the latter figure, the Vols are focused on not letting it affect the former.
"We're emphasizing the same thing we've tried to emphasize all week," head coach Derek Dooley said. "Don't focus on the last play. Don't focus on two plays from now. Don't focus on the scoreboard. Just focus on what you have to do to execute the next play. It's easier said than done.
"You have to accept the fact that you're going against a good football team and they're going to make some plays. And that's OK. We're going to make some too. We'll see who the last guy standing is in the fourth quarter. What you can't do is let a few of their plays start affecting you, and then you don't do what you're capable of doing from an execution standpoint."
The Razorbacks are first in the SEC in total offense and scoring offense, while putting together 16 touchdown drives of less than two minutes.
"They're explosive across the board," defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. "If you look at their skill players, the wide outs, the tight ends. They beat people all year. Their running backs are very skilled; they are good in the run game and in the pass game. They use them a lot of different ways. So it is a very dynamic offense, and the quarterback throws the ball as good as anybody we have seen, probably better."
The Arkansas offense may break some big plays, but one of the biggest keys to the game for Tennessee will be limiting the points the Razorbacks score off of those opportunities.
"We have to get off the field on defense," Dooley said. "They're going to move the ball. They're going to hit a lot of plays. They do against everybody. When they get down in that red area, you have to keep them to a field goal."
On 95 percent of its plays, the Vols' defense has been strong. How the other five percent will take its toll Saturday remains to be seen.
FAMILIAR FOE FOR CHANEY
Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will be matching wits with an old friend this Saturday, as it will be Willie Robinson calling plays to try and stop the Volunteer offense. The two worked together for the St. Louis Rams in 2006-07 with Chaney serving as the offensive line coach and Robinson as the team's defensive coordinator.
Although familiar with Robinson's style of defense, it won't make Chaney's job much easier due to the Razorbacks' "multiplicity."
"They do a lot of things and they do them pretty well," Chaney said. "They fly around hitting people. I think the multiplicity, they do a lot. Willy Robinson, a friend of mind and their coordinator, does a lot of stuff and makes you really think. That is the one thing that we try and worry about a little bit as we go in just trying to figure out exactly what they are going to try to do and attack us. It has been difficult because they do a lot of stuff."
In addition to the difficulty that their defensive scheme presents, Chaney is quick to note that they have a lot of talented players running that scheme as well which allows them to make plays even when they aren't in perfect position.
"They are (fast) in the secondary and they have some big bodies inside that move people around," Chaney said. "I think their linebackers run extremely well, their outside linebacker can run. They are a very athletic team. They know where they are headed and they make plays. About time you think you got them, you don't because they will fly somewhere unorthodox and make a play on us."
Arguably the most talented player on the Arkansas defense is senior defensive end Jake Bequette who tops the team with five sacks for a loss of 43 yards this season despite missing four weeks and three games with a hamstring injury. The Little Rock, Ark., native really stepped his game up last week, sacking South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw three times.
"I think he is really coming on after last week and we are really see him flourishing and rolling like he is capable of rolling," Chaney said. "He was a handful for them last week, he will be a handful for us. He is a very good football player. We have to know where he is at at all times. You go through and watch defenses play and you say, `can he wreck your game plan, can he wreck your game plan.' This kid can. He is that special of a player and his motor really separates him from most."
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