Another week has gone by, and in Rocky Top it is the same old story; the Vols were able to muster one half of solid football before crumbling in the second half to Alabama, 41-10.
Tennessee has dropped four straight SEC games for the first time since Johnny Majors’ 1988 team; and seven games into the season—it doesn’t look like it will get much better.
The Vols have shown that they can play with anyone for a half, but when it comes to putting a whole game together, it just hasn’t happened yet.
So, when I watched the first half of the game on Saturday night, I was not surprised. I thought, being the glass half-full Tennessee fan I am, “Maybe this time they put the entire game together?”
But I was let down, again, and looking back (regrettably), what did we learn?
1.The Offensive Line Showed What They are Capable Of
On UT’s second possession of the game, the line opened up a huge hole for Tauren Poole, allowing him to torch both of Alabama’s safeties on the way to a 59-yard touchdown run. Poole finished with 117 yards on 14 carries (should have had about 15 more carries), the first 100-yard rusher against Alabama since BenJarvus Green-Ellis in 2007.
They also held up much better against 'Bama’s D than they have in previous weeks, giving up only two sacks, none of them on Matt Simms. That is probably more reflective of Tyler Bray’s inexperience in getting the ball out on time than Tennessee’s young line.
Either way, there definitely was improvement.
2.Tennessee Couldn’t Stop the Pass or Run (For Very Long…)
266 yards. That is the total of the first half. That is a lot of yards for one half. It was an almost Chavis-esque, bend-but-don’t-break defense though, that only gave up 13 points in the first half.
272 yards. That is the total of the second half. It’s almost exactly the same. But the difference is the big play. In the first half, there was only one play of over 20+ yards given up by Tennessee’s defense, a 42-yard completion to Julio Jones from Greg McElroy. In the second half, there was four 35+ yard plays, including a 68-yard rush for a touchdown by Trent Richardson.
3.Tyler Bray May Have a Cannon, but He Can’t Get His Team to Line Up
Bray showed on Saturday night that he can sling the ball, and that he has the one of the quickest releases in the South, but the poor California native could not get his team to line up correctly.
On Bray’s inaugural drive, the Vols were flagged twice for illegal formation, and the drive stalled, leading to a punt.
What is kind of scary, is that Matt Simms missed practice on Monday, and was seen walking around the complex in a left knee brace. Ready or not here Bray comes. He's going to need more than just a cannon to beat South Carolina's defense.
It wasn’t just Bray that had trouble. In freshman Da’Rick Rodgers’ first meaningful playing time, Gerald Jones had to constantly remind him where to line up, among other things, and it just showed what kind of hole Tennessee is in when it comes to their youth.
The Vols freshman, there are plenty of them, are going to have to play far above their age, and really study hard if they want to have a chance at South Carolina.
It’s impossible to execute a play if you don’t know where to line up, it’s impossible to win a game if you can’t execute a play.
The Vols have their work cutout for them this week, and it’s up to their youth, the freshman especially, to show how bad they want their first SEC victory in practice. Because if we keep making the same mental mistakes, over and over and over again, on special-teams, offense and defense, we’ll be lucky to win another game.
Did I mention I’m a glass half-full guy?