When it comes to balance, it doesn’t get much better than what Tennessee did against LSU in a 40-13 win against the Tigers.
The Vols ran for 263 yards on Saturday and threw for 239 yards. It almost seemed as if Tennessee could call any play in the playbook and things would work out well.
The running game has long been cited as an important facet of the Vols’ program by Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel. However, UT is viewed as pass happy by many. Those that paint Tennessee’s offense into a corner are missing half of the Vols’ attack.
“It’s very important,” Small said of the running game, particularly against LSU. “You want to make them stay honest and play the whole field, play in the box and go out to the perimeter with our splits.
“Each part of the offense is like a motor. We have to all do our job for it to all be successful. We understand that in the run game, we have to get things started and take the pressure off of the other phase of the game.”
The other “phase” of the game is Tennessee’s passing attack. Make no mistake, it was fine, even without preseason All-SEC receiver Cedric Tillman, who is recovering from an ankle injury. His absence may be missed against upcoming foes like Alabama on Saturday, but the Vols didn’t skip a beat without him against LSU.
“Offensively, I feel like we were hitting on all cylinders,” Tennessee tailback Jabari Small said. “I felt like we ran the ball efficiently. The receivers did their jobs week in and week out, so I think it was a complete game for the most part. We still have to clean up some things. There are always some things (to improve on). We can always get better.”
Small was happy after the LSU game, but didn’t seem surprised as most of the nation was. The Vols were a slight favorite to beat the Tigers, but no one saw such a one-sided game unfolding in Tiger Stadium.
“We knew all we had,” Small said. “Plus our fans, our fans had a great showing today, but Death Valley, you hear so much about it, it’s not an easy place to play and those are good athletes on the other end, but it comes down to what we do.
“We try to just do that for four quarters, compete and not look at the scoreboard.”
That sounds like a lesson learned from Tennessee’s last game when the Vols let Florida claw back into the game after leading by 17 points with less than eight minutes remaining in the game. The Gators had one play to win the game before Tennessee finally held them off.
That’s two games and two special wins in which UT’s fan base made its presence felt.
The Vols’ faithful were racuous in Neyland Stadium in the win over Florida. They out-partied LSU in the bayou on Saturday and practically made the venue Neyland Stadium South.
“I’ve never been a part of something like this, the fan base, they show up week in and week out,” Small said. “I’m just honored to be a Tennessee Volunteer, honestly. I appreciate those guys. It was amazing.”