Tennessee Football: Grading the Vols Game vs. Arkansas
Just when you thought the Vols 2011 season couldn't possibly get any worse, it did.
The Vols were blown off the field at Arkansas on Saturday night. The Razorbacks beat Tennessee worse than either LSU or Alabama did, and the game was never in question.
As you would expect, this report card will be the worst of the season by far. The Vols lackluster performance against Arkansas was easily one of the lower points of the last three-plus tumultuous seasons in Knoxville.
Here's the tale of the tape from Saturday night's debacle in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
When your starting quarterback is replaced late in the game by Matt Simms, you know things cannot be going right.
Freshman Justin Worley performed OK for the most part. He was 15-of-29, and his only interception was a crucial play at the 1-yard line just before halftime. A touchdown would have brought the Vols to within seven at the half.
Worley made terrible throws on two different fourth-down tries, giving his receiver no chance to make a big play.
The Vols were actually able to run the ball pretty well against a good SEC opponent.
Senior Tauren Poole finished with just 41 yards rushing on 14 attempts, but freshman Marlin Lane had a couple of nice runs out of the Wildcat formation and ended up with 58 yards on just nine attempts.
Rajion Neal is proving to be a real threat, as long as he holds onto the ball. Neal scored the Vols only touchdown on an 11-yard run.
Tennessee's rushers had 148 yards rushing on 38 attempts.
Tennessee's wide receivers played a pretty good game. Top target Da'Rick Rogers did have a costly drop early, and his would-be fumble was somehow overturned by replay officials on the Vols first drive of the game.
Vincent Dallas, DeAnthony Arnett and Zach Rogers all made some nice plays.
When the offensive line protected well, the Vols moved the ball. When it didn't, Tennessee drives stalled out and looked quite ugly in the process.
The O-Line is still terribly inconsistent and cannot seem to put together an entire half of physical football.
This unit had a couple of shining moments, but for the most part, it was pushed around as the Arkansas running game put up over 250 yards rushing.
Malik Jackson and Maurice Couch each had a sack, but Couch's hit out of bounds on quarterback Tyler Wilson turned an important first-half stop into an Arkansas touchdown.
Tennessee's linebackers have been a bright spot for much of this season, but Saturday's game proved the youth of this unit. The always reliable AJ Johnson missed a tackle on one of the Razorbacks many big plays.
Freshman Curt Maggitt forced a fumble after the game was already decided and Austin Johnson had another interception in the first half.
From effort to ability to everything in between, this unit was just completely outplayed. There were missed tackles, Arkansas receivers making circus catches and even a dropped would-be pick-six by Eric Gordon.
Justin Coleman looks like he's going to be a pretty good player in the near future after laying some nice hits on the Razorbacks.
This unit deserves an F-minus if such a grade were possible to attain.
Joe Adams' punt return in the first quarter was completely inexcusable. Michael Palardy apparently forgot how to punt and returner Devrin Young did not match the explosiveness we've all come to admire in the last few weeks.
The wind was strong which probably affected Dooley's decision to fake the field goal in the first quarter, but Arkansas sniffed out the play and had it covered well.
Tennessee was woefully underprepared and appeared to give up quickly in this game.
Whether you are for or against this current staff, Saturday night's performance should make any big orange-partisan angry.
There were no issues with play-calling, but the excuses for Tennessee's complete and utter lack of competition in these big games are getting old fast.
Saturday night in Fayetteville was about as bad a performance from a Tennessee team as I can remember.
The team looked lackluster and effortless for the majority of the second half. The missed tackles should make any Tennessee fan hot under the collar, and there was an apparent lack of preparation in many aspects of the game.
Regardless of depth and/or injuries, Tennessee should be competing a little better in these games. The Vols youth showed more Saturday night than it has at any point this season.
Usually, young teams get better as the season goes along. That has not happened with this Vols team.