Tennessee vs. Oregon: Don't Worry Vols Fans, Ducks Just That Good

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Tennessee vs. Oregon: Don't Worry Vols Fans, Ducks Just That Good
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Burn the game film. Erase the cross-country trip from memory. Pretend it never happened.

These are three things Tennessee must do after the mighty Oregon Ducks handed the Vols their worst loss of the modern era, 59-14. 

Take a deep breath, UT fans. After the season's first two games, there wasn't enough evidence that this was a good football team. After Saturday's embarrassment, there's not enough evidence that the Vols are this bad, either.

It's still possible Tennessee can beat Florida next week. Or South Carolina down the road. Or several other ranked teams it plays. 

Oregon was just on a different planet than the Vols from a talent and speed perspective.

"We're not going to play like this ever again," Tennessee safety Brian Randolph told the Vol Network after the game. "I feel like we're going to show what this team is made of."

There's plenty of work for the Vols to do, or they won't beat anybody of any consequence.

After UT marched down the field and scored the game's first touchdown, the offense was disjointed. The Vols couldn't sustain drives, the offensive line was pushed around and Justin Worley again missed too many open receivers.

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Worley's performance should make coach Butch Jones take a long, hard look at his quarterback depth chart entering SEC play. Worley struggled with his accuracy against Austin Peay and Western Kentucky, and he was terrible against the Ducks.

Even so, Jones chose to keep him in until deep in the third quarter. Once Nathan Peterman entered, he led Tennessee on a touchdown drive against Oregon's reserves. Whether Peterman is the answer remains to be seen, but look for Worley's leash to be shorter moving forward.

Defensively, the Vols were just as clueless. They forced an Oregon punt on the game's first drive, but the next one came with 13 minutes, 40 seconds remaining in the game. In between those kicks, the Ducks orchestrated eight consecutive touchdown drives and piled up the majority of their 687 total yards in large chunks.

Every time Tennessee answered a Ducks score with a punt of its own, carnage ensued.

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota had 351 passing yards and three touchdowns in the first half, looking every bit the Heisman candidate. 

Every time De'Anthony Thomas, Mariota or someone else sought the edge on a stretch play, he got it easily. The Ducks exposed the Vols' continued ineptitude at covering the center of the field, and with all their motion and formations, Mariota picked from his choice of wide-open receivers after multiple blown coverages.

Big play after big play haunted UT. For something that happened so quickly, it never seemed to end.

"It's supposed to hurt," Jones said in his postgame radio show. "This is unacceptable. This is not the way we're going to play football at the University of Tennessee."

But one poor game is too early to be too concerned, especially against a team as incredible as Oregon. It was invincible Saturday, resting starters with five minutes left in the third quarter.

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

A lopsided outcome was predictable, but it was the thoroughness of the beating UT took that will leave Vols fans angry. Simply put: It shouldn't. Nobody else on Tennessee's schedule will be this relentless, this fast, this much of a matchup mismatch. 

It's just one of those games a first-year coach trying to resurrect a once-proud program cringes at when he sees it on his new schedule.

Jones' slogan is "brick by brick" because he's having to rebuild his program in the rubble of what Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley left. It's going to take a lot of bricks to beat a team like Oregon.

For all the goodwill and good recruiting Jones has done in his 10 months as UT's head coach, he now faces his first adversity. Fans are frustrated and embarrassed.

He has to guard against that same mentality in the locker room. Jones must gather his players, pick up their egos from a nationally televised demoralization and then help them forget it. That is the only possible takeaway from this game.

A flawed Florida looms in Gainesville next week. Never has UT been so happy to see the Gators.

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