Brainstorming the Blazers
UAB vs. Tennessee | 25 Sep 2010 | Neyland Stadium
12:21pm EDT | local TV and ESPN3.comFeels a little like a bye week, which is a dangerous way to feel. But, yet it does.
The UAB Blazers come to Knoxville fresh off their first win of the year, a defeat of Troy 34-33 on a last second, hail-Mary touchdown. UAB’s season began with a 32-31 tough loss to Florida Atlantic followed by a conference loss to SMU, 28-7, in Dallas.
Last week, the Blazers were en route to their third straight loss for the year, but three fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 44-yard scoring strike from Bryan Ellis to Jackie Williams as time expired gave UAB a one point victory. Ellis completed 23-of-37 passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns in the game.
Ellis, according to an interview on WNML this week, grew up a Tennessee fan and had dreamed of running onto Shields-Watkins field, only now he’ll have to do it from the south end.
Also watch for sophomore QB David Isabelle who will also play on Saturday. Isabelle, who started for the Blazers’ first three games, ran for a Conference USA quarterback-rushing record 214 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in UAB’s season-opening loss to Florida Atlantic.
The blazers rank 30th in the FBS (120 total teams) in total rushing, but a dreadful 98th in points allowed. So, their ground attack, even though it hasn’t faced the likes of Oregon or Florida, will present a test for which preparation has surely focused this week in Knoxville. There penchant for allowing points sounds just what the Vols’ battered OL and the rest of the offense need right now before entering the lion’s dens of Baton Rouge and Athens.
On our side of the fence, practice this week has been focused on third-down situations and red zone strategies. Tennessee ranks 118th in the country in converting third downs (9-for-43), ahead of only Florida International and San Jose State. Furthermore, the Vols have scored just three touchdowns on eight red-zone trips and have allowed all seven of the opponents’ trips there to end in points.
The Vol offense is still hobbling a bit. Tailback Tauren Poole (thigh), and receivers Denarius Moore (ankle) and Zach Rogers (shoulder) were handled with kid gloves during the week’s practices. Receiver Gerald Jones practiced with a splint on his injured hand – he won’t play against UAB.
The offensive line is in near shambles. Tennessee will start two true freshmen, two sophomores and a senior on the O-Line against UAB. And there’s not many backups available. Starting center Cody Pope may be out for a second game (severe stinger and concussion), and starting LG JerQuari Schofield could be out two or three games (broken bone in left foot).
On the defense, Linebacker Herman Lathers (leg) is questionable for Saturday.
A lot of talk this week about Vol junior QB Matt Simms. Flashes of brilliance occasionally poke through his mistake-filled performances. Matt is a work in progress, and I firmly believe he will grow into a very fine college QB. Look for some late-season and senior-season heroics.
However, he appears to be a friendly-sort-of-pain-in-the-ass according to Vol LB Nick Reveiz as quoted on Chattanooga Times Free Press’ reporter Wes Rucker via a tweet on Thursday. We’ve all known a few like that, haven’t we? [Bert excepted, of course]
So what do you think? Do we even things up on Saturday? Can’t underestimate any opponent, but I would be lying if I said anything different than UAB feels more like UTM than UO or UF, but not much. This one will be tougher than you might think.
Tennessee 27 UAB 10
Now that I’ve brainstormed, here’s a real brainstorm, from a band with an appropriate name, considering where I am at the moment.