Anything important come out of the Vols’ win?

Tennessee 45  Chattanooga 10

Neyland Stadium, Knoxville (93,097)

Vols QB Justin Worley threw three TD passes on Saturday. But by running for two more (an eight-yarded in the second quarter and a 1 yard score in the third), he became the first Tennessee signal caller to rush for two TDs in a game since Casey Clausen in a 45-17 Florida Citrus Bowl triumph over Michigan on New Years Day 2002.

Coach Jones really liked Worley’s aggressive mindset Saturday as well as his return to solid passing stats: 19 of 24 for 198 yards.

But the glaring fly in the ointment remained against an underwhelming opponent — Worley was sacked five times. One of them resulted in a turnover and the first 3 points for the Mocs.

And then there was the rushing attack: 42 carries for 123 yards. Yes, the five sacks are included and make the numbers look worse then they are. But they are not good… The tally was only 52 yards through the first three quarters, meaning that the Vols’ remaining 71 yards came during the fourth quarter when nothing was at stake. It all totaled 2.9 yards per carry. Against Chattanooga.

Derrell Scott 9-42, Justus Pickett 10-27, Nathan Peterman 5-26, Pig Howard 2-13, Deanthonie Summerhill 2-9, Jalen Hurd 2-7, Devrin Young 2-0, Justin Worley 10-(-1).

The good than came from the ground game were the young ones getting some quality time, Derrell Scott and Justus Pickett. That was important. We need depth in the ground game, especially with Jalen Hurd banged up and Devrin Young wholly unimpressive. And depth will come with experience. Unfortunately, Saturday was only a first step forward. Ole Miss, Alabama, and South Carolina will make any more forward steps much more difficult if not impossible, and this will put pressure on the passing game which will put pressure on our terrible OL, and…. well, you see where this is going. And the destination doesn’t end with the word “Bowl”.

On to better things, WR Jason Croom had a career high six catches for 76 yards. At 6 foot-five inches, he is a formidable talent, and that talent is starting to blossom.

And then there was Johnathon Johnson, a junior WR who caught three passes for 46 yards. Two of his catches were for touchdowns. Is Pig Howard going to find more time on the pines? Stay tuned…

And more… Only 5 penalty yards were assessed to Tennessee yesterday. That is a return to form for this 2014 squad who against Florida basically shot themselves in the foot with their undisciplined performance.

And then there was that Big Orange defense. Led by the budding All-America-to-be A.J. Johnson, Chattanooga was held to less than 100 passing yards and 106 yards rushing. Apart from a Georgia running back who has been suspended indefinitely, no big plays have been allowed by this Vols defense, probably the very best Tennessee defensive squad in many years.

And finally, the special teams are starting to look special. Aaron Medley is booming kickoffs and looks pretty consistent in FGAs and XPAs. The sound of the ball off of Matt Darr’s foot is starting to have a little ‘boom’ to it. And the return teams had a couple of nice runs, one on a punt return and another for 68 yards on a kickoff.

But back to the question of the day: did anything really important come out of this win? Looking for a silver lining, I would say yes because of how this team bounced back from a very bitter loss. And that quality starts with Butch Jones and his staff. It’s enough to keep one watching for at least a few more games in 2014 in the hope for some December football.

Are you looking ahead past the Mocs?

One game at a time… play ‘em as they come…

Yes, I might be watching more of Auburn at Mississippi State than Chattanooga at Tennessee. But the Vols can’t get caught taking the week off, licking their wounds. And I doubt that this will happen.

And I’m not dismissing Saturday’s game from this site. So here are some summaries of thought expressed at various venues across the world wide webster.

Matt Slovin at WBIR.com gives his thoughts on what is important for Tennessee to not only defeat Chattanooga on Saturday but to set the path for the remainder of the season. He boiled it down to these five:

1958 game program Mocs v Vols1. Use this game to develop a deeper ground game (i.e., rest freshman Jalen Hurd).

2. The young OL must protect QB Justin Worley and give him adequate time to throw.

3. Contain a Treon Harris-like QB, the Mocs’ Jacob Huesman who can dual-threat you to death. Huesman has rushed for 258 yards on 61 carries and also has thrown for 681 yards and eight TDs. He had four touchdown passes and two touchdown runs last week in a 55-6 blowout of VMI.

4. Vol WRs must create some space in our short-to-medium length passing game.

5. Jones & Co. must not overlook the Mocs. A loss Saturday could spark a riot in the Neyland Stadium stands similar to the one the last time Chattanooga defeated Tennessee in 1958. (UTC defeated the Vols 14-6). As some fans tried to tear down the goal posts, a scuffle took place and police tried to intervene. What followed was a major riot involving paddy wagons, tear gas and fire hoses.

Chattanooga QB Jacob Huesman will try to be a pest to the Vols defense on Saturday.

Chattanooga QB Jacob Huesman will try to be a pest to the Vols defense on Saturday.

And for you history buffs (thinking of you, TK), the only other victory by the Mocs over the Vols was in 1905 played in Chattanooga, as recounted by John Schearer of the Chattanooga Times. Also, the Vols and the Mocs played each other annually from 1938 to 1966 (with the 1958 game the only Vol loss).

Wes Rucker at GoVols247 reminds us that Chattanooga is ranked #12 in the current NCAA Division I FCS poll, and earlier this season they nearly upset FBS opponent Eastern Michigan. Last season, the Mocs won the Southern Conference. Wes also gives a lot of material from Mocs Head Coach Russ Huesman (yes to those of you paying attention, this Huesman is the father of the other Huesman, the Mocs’ QB). The Head Coach gives nothing away and says all of the right things, but you can tell this game is a very big deal to Chattanooga.

Even the Washington Post ran an AP game preview, which included this line uttered by Butch Jones at his Monday press conference that for some ended the honeymoon period with the new coach…

“Everyone wants the prize, but no one wants the process. We’re going through the process right now.”

Such a sensitive lot some of us are. In any event, the article informs that Mocs’ key RB Keon Williams will not play Saturday due to a hand injury that required surgery.

Alright. So let’s get to the matter at hand.

In this game, which is the first time Tennessee has played former foe Chattanooga since 1969, the Vols’ vastly superior talent should be the difference for a convincing homecoming win. But as they say, the game isn’t played with paper unless you are folding the paper into that triangular wad and sliding it across the table attempting to let part of it hand off the edge without completely falling off. [Wasn't it fun to kick extra points and field goals with your index finger, propelling the triangle through your opponent's goal posts made with their index fingers?]

So, expect a battle on Saturday as the visitors are really looking forward to this match. Mocs Motivation notwithstanding, the Vols will prevail but in a somewhat frustrating fashion.

Tennessee 31 Chattanooga 14

Are you thinking pink?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so the Vols are going to mix a little pink in with the orange and white on Saturday when they face neighbor Chattanooga. Socks, gloves, wristbands, shoelaces, visors, towels, and other game apparel – both players and coaches – will feature the color you get when you mix red with white.
This isn’t the first time for Tennessee to show such support on the football field — last year’s game against South Carolina featured the same.
Sophomore Jalen Reeves-Maybin isn’t doing this as a one-off this year… he lost his grandmother to breast cancer while he was in high school.
Everything I do, I dedicate to her. I wear pink every day. Every pair of shoes I have, I put pink shoelaces in them. I won’t wear shoes without them, except on the field.
And now he will be able to finally wear them on the field this Saturday.
Nearly everybody has been affected by breast cancer — a close family member or friend of yours has probably died from it.
So wear something pink on Saturday. And if you don’t have any pink apparel, have a color card/paint swatch and carry it with you. It is a worthy reminder of those we have lost to the disease.

How do you spell “frustrated”?

I thought a good way to close the chapter on Saturday’s loss to Florida was to comment on the thoughtful and insightful comments posted to the previous blog. So, here we go…

TK says : 4 October 2014 at 4:57 pm Edit

strangest game i’ve watched in a while………………..

Any low-scoring affair in the modern game will look somewhat strange. The low scoring in this game was a combination of good defensive play and really awful offensive play. It wasn’t a “good” game in my book, at least how it was played on the field. But what it lacked in execution was substituted with pure passion — the players and the fans. It was a PASSIONATE game.

Bert says : 4 October 2014 at 6:24 pm Edit

disheartening to say the least….

offensive line is a dumpster fire…

hello UTC…..

Disheartening is a very apt description. Part of that comes from the expectations…

This subject of expectations is provocative because if someone were to say to a Vol fan “your expectations are way too high”, that will more than likely be met with a dismissive if not angry response. But I think it is a fair question nonetheless.

“It is just a matter of time before Tennessee reclaims its rightful place in college football.” This is a very common mindset in the VolNation. Personally, I choose to carry that with me as a belief because if it isn’t true, what is the point in investing time and emotionally energy as a fan? But the objective fact is that there is no guarantee that Tennessee will ever get back to winning conference championships with the chance at national titles. Your “rightful place” is what you earn in the moment, not by some view of history.

A lot of right things have to happen to get back to that premier level. It might not happen, in your lifetime, in my lifetime. Have we every seriously thought this? Recently, I have.

Regarding the OL, Coach Jones said in today’s presser that the OL is what it is, and there is no other option. It a lot of ways, it is very bad timing. You never really want to have all of your starters to be of the same graduating class, for many reasons. Especially now.

What is worse, I think, is that we simply cannot run the football in any sustainable way. That puts more pressure on the OL and the QB they are trying to protect. I think this is what will relegate the Vols to yet another bowl-less season. The defense can’t win games for you — Saturday was glaring proof of that.

Rick says : 5 October 2014 at 6:14 am Edit

It will take a long time getting over that one. I understand that it takes time, but everyone was ready for a big win. This was the perfect time for it. Butch has a lot of momentum built up with recruiting, but people are tired of losing seasons. Everyone thought this was the chance to get that sixth win. Now, I am not so sure we will get five. Kentucky looks pretty good.

That is another thing. Several second year coaches have made great strides on the field, and UT is still struggling. Having Derek Dooley was like being given the Death Penalty.

Everybody was indeed ready for a big win on Saturday. Just like the same teams and stadium two years ago.

Six wins is going to be very difficult, and more difficult than most would have predicted at the beginning of this season, mostly because of Ole Miss and Kentucky.

And, yes, a lot of blame can be put at the feet of the Dooley years. We just have to crawl out of that hole, a hole that is perhaps a lot deeper and more expansive than many thought it was. A look to the early Johnny Majors years are very instructive to how long it can take to become a significant force in the college game. And that was back when the SEC wasn’t as good as it is now. Nearly a decade to get from rock bottom to a conference championship. This could take longer.

rockytop78 says : 5 October 2014 at 2:08 pm Edit

We still have amazing fans: I was at the game (the beneficiary of two tickets at the last minute), and the orange/white checkerboard pattern in the stadium was a thing to marvel at; it looked great in pictures, but seeing it in person was fantastic.

We still have some amazing freshmen: TK Jr. had tremendous game, with an interception and a sack; he has a truly great future as a Vol. Jalen Hurd also is one tough guy; I wish that he had a better offensive line to run behind, but that will, hopefully, come with time.

We still have a hard row to hoe to get to a bowl game: four wins to get to six overall victories doesn’t look as easy as it did on Saturday before the kickoff against the Gators. Where are the easy victories in the rest of the schedule? I saw where UTC has a stud quarterback; can we write them off as a W? Ole Miss is sky-high, and unless they implode they should dominate us in Oxford. Alabama is going to show no mercy to anyone that they play for the rest of the season, after losing to Ole Miss yesterday. South Carolina is, surprisingly to me, looking more and more like a very beatable team after getting manhandled by . . . Kentucky!?! And speaking of Kentucky, at least we play them here, we might need the home field advantage against a team that took the Florida Gators into overtime in Gainesville. Mizzou with Maty Mauk at QB cannot be classified as a likely W. Then there’s Vanderbilt, which ought to be a lock for a W. But can you see four probable wins in the rest of the schedule? I am having a hard time doing so.

The Vol fanbase is incredible. The look of the checkerboard grandstands was one of the most wonderful sights I can remember. The million dollar question is how long can the fans, including the students, hang in there this season? Butch Jones pretty much pleaded with the fans shortly after Saturday’s loss.

There certainly is a lot of promise on the field in those freshman. Who knows but that we’ll have a second coming of those “Flaming Sophomores”.

We need four wins to go bowling. Let’s say two are Chattanooga and Vanderbilt. That leaves just two more. Two from the following: Ole Miss, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Missouri. We may have to beat South Carolina down in Columbia to get it done. Otherwise, it will have to be wins over the Cats and Mizzou late in the season. Certainly not out of the realm of possibility, but at this juncture, it’s not probable.

Brscoggins says : 6 October 2014 at 1:18 pm Edit

No offensive line and no offensive play caller.

The coaching staff… I never know what to say regarding a coaching staff’s play-calling and strategy and personnel choices. I listened to the Monday press conference, and I think it was Jason Swain who asked why not use a fullback as an offensive lineman… CBJ has the perfect response: “Who do you want me to use?”

I really don’t know. But the interesting part of the point Brscoggins is making is that Jones brought in “his guys” when he came to Tennessee. It will be interesting to see if/how long it takes Coach Jones to fire his first assistant.

***

Great comments from great followers. Hanging in there with this team will be well worth our time. At least that’s what I’m choosing to believe.

Is Saturday’s game an all or nothing affair for you?

Ah, yes… the topic of moral victories.

If you are a Vol fan, you may have had enough of this topic, enough of this kind of result. And, if you are a Vol hater, you probably wish that Tennessee gets more and more of them.

FLORIDA vs TENESSEE

As discussed in the previous post, the importance of this game is immense, and arguably even more important for Florida than for Tennessee. So that brings us to the question of the moment — for the VolNation, will a win over the hated Gators be the only acceptable result? Have we had enough of bringing the fight to the opponent for a full 60 minutes with nothing other than an “L” to show for it all?

Well, the national media weighed in heavily on Saturday’s rivalry game. They relegated it to basically a third tier game — a 12:00 pm start on the SEC Network.

Over at ESPN.com.,  former Tennessee running back Jabari Davis had his say about it…

When I saw that the time was a noon game, that’s just disrespectful because it’s basically like, ‘You guys hurry up and play, get your game over with, and all the big-money games will be playing at 3:30 and at night time. I felt like it was kind of a slap in the face.

But perhaps former Vol WR Jason Swain said it best…

For the players in this game, it doesn’t really matter what time it is. The game could be at midnight, it could be at six in the morning, it can be in a parking lot, it doesn’t matter; it’s Florida-Tennessee. Let’s rumble. Let’s do it.

And that is all that matters. It is US versus THEM.

So back to the topic at hand…

I have reached the point where, for me at least, Saturday’s game is truly an all-or-nothing affair. If Tennessee doesn’t win and break this dreadful streak against Florida — especially when by all accounts the Gators are ripe for the taking, and we are supposedly laying foundation bricks — I will harbor no amount of satisfaction, even if we (again) play our asses off, with a loss of any kind.

I’m tired and I want all of the losing to all of the schools that matter to stop. And I want it to stop now.

It really needs to stop now.

So, to optimistically think that I will retain my enthusiasm beyond this weekend, my prediction is…

Tennessee 34 Florida 26

[...and, yes, I really do think that Tennessee gets the W, because Worley and our stellar WRs will fully exploit the Gators' weak secondary as our QB will stay healthy the whole game (somehow our OL will protect him from a front 7 that will try to dismember him...]

So, what is your prediction?

 

What’s up with the Gators?

It’s that time again.

Two years ago, Tennessee hosted Florida (as well as ESPN’s coveted GameDay set) in the most anticipated football game of the Derek Dooley era. Not only were the Vols ranked in the national polls for the first time in years, but the halftime ceremonies featured the most revered native son, former All-America player and head coach Johnny Majors, getting his number retired in a house that doesn’t host as many retired digits as it could.

The result was the beginning of the end of the Dooley era as the Vols melted under the stress of another second half filled with adversity, which perhaps is what many will remember about Dooley’s Vols.

And the national ranking went away as quickly as Dooley slammed the ball to the ground in disgust after catching a Tyler Bray throwaway in the second half.

At that time, the Vols had become famous for good first halves and lousy second ones. Simply put, those Tennessee teams were losers who easily unraveled at the slightest sign of a real fight.

But now, things look completely different (as long as Justin Worley is in the game that is).

This time, it is Florida that has that losing look all over the face of their once mighty football program.

*****

Yes, the Florida Gator football program is reeling. They have won only two of their past 10 games dating to last season, a fact that is nearly unthinkable.

It all started a couple of years ago…

The Gators defeated its massive instate rival Florida State in convincing fashion to cap the 2012 regular season. Second-year head coach Will Muschamp was the toast of Gainesville with that 11-win season, being named SEC Coach of the Year. But then the Gators, ranked #4 in the polls, got hammered in the Superdome by Louisville.

And while Florida State has won 19 straight games since that 2012 season finale, Florida has lost 10 of 16. Yes, injuries have been a big part of the downward Gator spiral, but the Florida program has prided itself on its depth over the years, so the faithful in the sunshine state aren’t satisfied with the training room excuse. They are as negative as I can remember them.

*****

To say that Saturday’s game is a big one in the growth of Butch’s Team #118 is perhaps an understatement compared to how big this one is for Muschamp and his swampers. The SEC East is practically there for the taking as it is the conference’s western half that holds the real powerhouses. And Florida doesn’t resemble a team ready to take it. Quarterback Jeff Driskel’s play has many calling for his benching. The defensive secondary is particularly awful. Three weeks ago, it took the Gators three overtimes to defeat Kentucky. At home. And Florida’s 42-21 defeat to Alabama two weeks ago featured the Gator defense giving up the most yards in school history (645).

The offense is getting worse every week. The defense is young and the paint hasn’t been applied to the canvas. And Muschamp’s seat has gotten hotter than a blistering Florida summer afternoon.

It seems that the only thing Florida has going for it come Saturday is history. The Gators have won nine straight against Tennessee, and the last seven of those wins have been by double-digit margins.

But the 2014 Tennessee Volunteers has the look of a team that is paying more attention to General Neyland’s Seven Game Maxims than any team in orange over the last decade. It seems as if Tennessee has their boot on the back of the Gator’s neck, ready to crush the very life out of Florida football, and kickoff is many hours away.

On Saturday, we’ll learn a whole lot about how far Butch Jones has actually turned around the Good Ship Rocky Top. The Vol fan base is on starvation watch and needs a victory over Florida right now. As for Florida, nobody has a clue whether or not they will have the same head coach come December.

A Gator win over the Vols just might save Muschamp’s job and simultaneously would cause many a hungry Vol fan to suspend critical judgment on Jones.

But a Tennessee victory would truly clear the air and establish the true vector direction of both programs.

Which way will it go? I’m waiting a couple more days before I decide. But I’m definitely leaning in a certain direction.

 

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