Hello, Is There Any Hope In There?
The Vols host LSU Saturday afternoon at the General’s house. Unfortunately, we’re unable to do what my momma always told me to do: put your best foot forward. Our best QB is injured and out. Our best RB is injured and out. Our best WR is injured and out. Our best DL is injured and out. And, our best CB/S was dismissed from the team.
That’s no way to treat the number one ranked team in the land when they pay you a visit.
That pitiful circumstance notwithstanding, it is still irresistible to revisit last year’s game in Baton Rouge in order to find some solace and hope for Saturday.
On 2 October 2010, LSU ‘defeated’ Tennessee 16-14. All the events, especially the last two plays, are well chronicled. I won’t revisit the details. They are far too painful. But it is worth stepping back and looking at the big picture.
LSU were huge favorites that day. But, they didn’t play like it. In Baton Rouge mind you.
The Tigers scored TDs on the very first and the very last play of the game. In between, Tennessee fought their hearts out and left everything they had out on the playing surface of Tiger Stadium. Except for the bizarre events surrounding and including the final play, what Tennessee did was enough to win.
Completely dominated in yardage statistics, the Vols were able to hang with the Bayou Bengals because of some traditional game-changing aspects of football. Tennessee got possession via four turnovers – three INTs and a fumble recovery. And, the Vols did not turn over the ball to LSU. Tennessee committed very few penalties. And, the Big Orange kept the Tigers from gaining good field position with a very effective kicking game.
Look at these statistics.
Tennessee rushed for only 96 yards on 37 carries. That’s an underwhelming 2.6 yards per carry. LSU ran for 219 yards on 36 carries for a 6.1 yards per carry clip. Yet, we nearly won. In Baton Rouge.
The Vols passed for only 121 yards on a rather utilitarian 12-23 and 5.3 yards per pass. That was Matt Simms, not Tyler Bray. LSU passed for 215 yards on a 19-33/6.5 yards per pass clip. Yet, we nearly won. In Baton Rouge.
Tennessee made only 12 first downs to LSU’s 20. Yet, we nearly won. In Baton Rouge.
It was the turnovers that nearly killed LSU.
The first of three INTs for the Vols ended with a sack of Matt Simms on a fourth and four from the LSU 34 yard line. But, it kept the ball from LSU for three minutes who had it at midfield and may have scored otherwise.
The second LSU turnover, a fumble after the Tigers had driven the ball from their own 28 to the UT 31 yard line, only resulted in a Vol punt on a 3-and-out. But, it kept the ball from LSU for another three minutes and may have kept the Tigers from scoring.
The third turnover, a Nick Reveiz INT at the LSU 38 yard line resulted in a missed Michael Palardy FG attempt. But, it kept the ball out of LSU’s hands for another three minutes.
Then in the fourth quarter with a first and goal at the Vol nine yard line, LaMarcus Thompson intercepted a Jarrett Lee pass at the goal line. And for the fourth time, the turnover didn’t result in a Vols score. But, Tennessee had kept the ball away from LSU for another four minutes when Tauren Poole’s rush for no gain on fourth down at the LSU 31 yard line ended the Vols’ possession.
So, even though Tennessee converted four LSU turnovers into zero points, LSU was kept at bay – the Vols kept the ball nearly 13 minutes after those four turnovers, enough to even the time of possession for the entire game at 30 minutes each.
So, what does this mean for this Saturday’s game which looks to be one of the biggest mismatches in recent memory?
For starters, both teams of today are similar enough to last season’s personnel to make a comparison to the 2010 game somewhat realistic as a barometer of what is possible. That gives hope. Secondly, this year’s game is in Knoxville, not in Baton Rouge. That has to be an advantage.
That’s enough to make you believe in the possibility that Tennessee could defeat LSU this Saturday.
But think about it objectively. Tennessee could be considered very fortunate to have even sniffed victory in the fourth quarter much less have it in the palm of their hand and only to loose it because they decided to play with a 7-4-2 formation on the ‘last’ play. Look what good fortune the Vols had — a 4-to-0 turnover ratio. What are the chances of that happening again this Saturday? Of course instead you could say how unfortunate the Vols were to have not scored following those four turnovers.
Or, you could say how inept we were.
So, the voice of reason says that (1) LSU is a better team this season than last; (2) the Tigers are going to make damned sure they don’t put in as indifferent a performance this Saturday as they did last year, especially while holding the number one national ranking; and (3) when considering our injuries and the complete evaporation of a running game, the Vols are arguably a far worse team now then they were about this time last season.
Yes, anything can happen. But the impossible is not likely to be made possible twice.
I’m afraid this time around it’s going to be more bad than good, but not as bad as it could be.
LSU 34 Tennessee 9