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Unit bell curve: Tennessee-Southern Miss

Running backs. Tennessee churned out 193 yards on the ground (151 in the second half) on 39 rushing attempts for an average of 4.9 yards per carry. Arian Foster had 23 of those carries, gained 125 yards, and had both rushing touchdowns. Lennon Creer was a spark late and gained 58 yards on six carries for an 8.8 yard per carry average. There were two botched plays, one where Arian Foster fumbled because he was not expecting the handoff, and another when LaMarcus Coker appeared to be lined up incorrectly, but reports indicate that these were miscommunications on play calls and are therefore credited to quarterback Erik Ainge and the coaching staff.

Offensive Line. Credit the offensive line as well for the improved running game this week. They did give up one sack, but backup quarterback Jonathan Crompton may have simply held the ball too long.

Quarterback.. Ainge had another solid performance, going 23 of 36 for 276 yards and two touchdowns. He only ranks 31st in the nation in passing efficiency so far this year, but he commanded the offense well. As I said before, the miscommunication on two play calls are credited to Ainge and the coaching staff. Ainge was successful, however, in stretching the field a bit more this week, as the average yards per catch increased by four over what it was last week at Cal.

Receivers. Lucas Taylor led the way here with five catches for 118 yards, but right behind him was Austin Rogers with seven catches for 112 yards. Chris Brown caught one for 17 yards, and Josh Briscoe, Jeff Cottam, and Denarius Moore all got into the action as well. In all, Tennessee put up 276 yards through the air, and there were several key third-down conversions and one fourth down conversion to sustain drives. The unit did stretch the field a bit this week, but they have yet to get behind the defensive backs.

Special teams. Daniel Lincoln made all of his three field-goal attempts, for 36, 38, and 47 yards. Chad Cunningham filled in well for an ailing Britton Colquitt, punting three times for 122 yards and an average of 40.7 and placing one inside the 20. On kickoffs, Cunningham averaged 60.1 yards. Jonathan Hefney looked good on punt returns averaging 17 yards, and the Tatum Tandem did fairly well on kickoffs, gaining 105 yards on five returns.

Defensive Line. This unit showed much improvement over last week. Antonio Reynolds and Dan Williams led the way with six tackles each, and Walter Fisher had four tackles, one pass breakup, and one quarterback hurry. Xavier Mitchell had four tackles and two quarterback hurries. Robert Ayers was all over the place, racking up three tackles, one sack for 4 yards, two tackles for losses, and two quarterback hurries. The d-line didn't get much done in the first half, though, so they slipped to the left of the bell curve.

Linebackers. Rico McCoy led the team with nine tackles, including the play of the game when he played the option perfectly, grabbed the Southern Miss quarterback out of the air, and slammed him into the ground. He also recorded one interception, but then attempted to lateral it too close to the opponent's end zone as time was expiring in the first half. Jerod Mayo had four tackles, a half a sack, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble, and one quarterback hurry. Ryan Karl was solid.

Secondary. Jarod Parrish had seven tackles and one fumble recovery, and Eric Berry added five tackles. Ricardo Kemp filled in nicely for injured Antonio Gaines by recording three tackles and one fumble recovery. Marsalous Johnson broke up two passes. The main reason this unit is this close to the bottom of the bell curve is that they gave up a 69 yard touchdown pass on blown coverage.

Coaching. Give credit to the coaching staff for turning the defense around at halftime, but dock them for not getting it done sooner. Credit them, too, for emphasizing the run game in the second half and for getting quite a few young players into the game. No gripes with the play calling this week, but there were some miscommunications from the booth and the sideline.

Overall, the entire curve shifted to the right this week, thanks primarily to the second half defense. The offense continues to roll consistently.