Those sorts of mistakes cannot happen if the unranked Big Orange (2-2) is to test the 12th-ranked Tigers (4-0) Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge. The Vols' head man knows better than anyone that his team cannot play as sloppily vs. LSU as it did vs. UAB and be competitive.
"We had two third-and-ones where we jumped offsides," Derek Dooley recalled. "Two first-year guys (were guilty). That's where your inexperience shows."
Tennessee incurred just four penalties for 20 yards vs. UAB but all four were false starts. The youthful Vol blockers tended to lose their focus whenever the Blazers would shift, fake a blitz or speak up.
"They're up there doing all their junk blitzes," Dooley recalled. "They stem, they say, ‘Hut.' It's like high school. All those things we've got to correct."
Four dropped passes in the third quarter cost the Vols two touchdowns that could've extended a 23-7 lead to 37-15. Tennessee receivers got open but struggled to make routine catches.
"We felt like we could throw it on them well. We just felt that going in, and early on it proved true," Dooley said. "So we came out in the third quarter wanting to throw the ball and push it down the field. Had we caught those balls, we'd be feeling pretty good right now."
Quarterback Matt Simms finished 19 of 34 for 245 yards and three touchdowns but drops cost him at least four completions, 90 yards and another TD. Still, he refuses to call out his pass catchers.
"I think it's more frustrating for the receivers because they lose a little confidence in going up there and catching the ball," he said. "It's tough but it's part of the game. We obviously want to convert some of those passes but that's something I believe I've overcome - not letting those plays dictate how I play the rest of the game. I thought I did a good job of just battling through that, not worrying about that and going on to the next down."
Asked what he can do to help his receivers work through costly drops, Simms smiled.
"Just keep throwing it to 'em," he said. "There's no cure for it. You just keep throwing it to 'em and eventually they'll catch it because they're good players. There's no speech you have to give them or any kind of motivation. You just go out there and keep playing, make plays the way you know you can."
The Vols won't make many plays this Saturday if they continue stopping themselves. LSU is quite capable of stopping them without help.