The Ancient Greeks saw the same patterns reproduced in all levels of the cosmos, from the largest scale all the way down to the smallest scale.
On Saturday night in Nashville, the Grecian Formula was in effect — the Volunteers exhibited the same deficiencies that we have seen all season long: (1) big plays/poor defense; (2) turnovers; and (3) coaching.
At the end of the third quarter, the much-maligned Vol rushing game had 100 yards on the ground, and Vol freshman QB Justin Worley had more passing yards than the Razorbacks’ veteran gunslinger Tyler Wilson.
But the score at that point was Hogs 35 Vols 7.
It was all about big plays.
Looking for something to build on, Derek Dooley wasn’t afraid to put it on the shoulders of freshman QB Justin Worley. Delivering passes to 9 different receivers, Worley racked up 291 passing on a 23-for-33 performance. Da’Rick Rogers was Worley’s favorite target, getting 9 grabs for 137 yards, including a 47-yard TD strike.
Obvious kudos go to the defense for the shutout, only the third since 2003 (the last being last year’s 50-0 opener against UT-Martin), and the first on Homecoming since the blanking of Okie State in 1995.
Concerns still rain down on the running game. Against a poor team, it was atrocious, with only 120 net yards on 45 carries. That’s a 2.7 yards per carry clip.
The most entertaining part of the evening was the 6:10 pm call to a frat house to round up a place kicker in a pinch.
It feels like a very long time since the Vols last played the MTSU Blue Raiders. It’s not because it was nearly a decade ago (2002), but more that the Vols were ranked fourth in the nation. Tennessee won 26-3, on their way to an 8-win season. MTSU was on their way to losing their first 5 games that season, and ultimately 8.
Fortunes have changes for the Vols, with an 8-win season out of the question. MTSU, at 2-5, could easily be headed for another 8 loss campaign.
Down 7-3 to begin that Dreaded Third Quarter, Tennessee nearly exorcised all those early second half demons. But early in the third quarter, when Prentiss Waggner’s run — after his pass interception near the Vol 45 yard — ended just two yards shy of the goal line, it eerily didn’t seem like the Big Orange would capitalize. A three-yard rushing loss was followed by freshman Vol QB Justin Worley throwing his first collegiate interception.
It was one of multiple opportunities lost.
Recent events have transpired to make this upcoming matchup with the South Carolina Gamecocks a very interesting affair.
Those events surrounding the Vols have been well-chronicled here. Tyler Bray goes down with an injury. Matt Simms in Year 2 is the Matt Simms of Year 1, and is thusly benched. Enter a native South Carolinian, true freshman Justin Worley – whose redshirt was burned during the final moments of Bama’s torching of Tennessee – who will make his first collegiate start Saturday night. There has also been the Vols’ habit of imploding in the second half against SEC opponents. And the slow, ponderous Vol secondary has made running downfield routes by our opponents ever more popular.
NOTE: After this article was written and posted, Derek Dooley announced that Justin Worley will be the Vols’ starting QB this Saturday against South Carolina. That announcement does not affect the views presented here; it enhances them.
The thankful end of Saturday night’s game at Alabama may come to be remembered as the beginning of the career of the next great Tennessee Vol quarterback.
I’m surely a heretical figure within the Vol Nation by saying that I’ve yet to be sold (completely) on Tyler Bray as a true big-time college QB. He’s not one.
Now, this all depends on one’s definition of “big-time.” I have my own. Young Tyler hasn’t met mine. Perhaps he’s met yours.
Perhaps he will become one. But that broaches into the territory of fortune tellers and sooth sayers.
It took Alabama 34 minutes to score their first TD of the evening, thanks to an aggressive and effective first-half Tennessee defense, not to mention a punter’s passing prowess. But for the fourth time this season against an SEC opponent, the Vols got burned early in the second half to lose hard-fought momentum.
The injury to Tyler Bray brings multiple problems and opportunities.
The obvious problem is losing Bray’s potential based on past performance: 116-for-176 (66%) for 1,579 yards (9.0 yds per attempt), 316 yards per game, 14 TDs, and only 2 INTs in 2011. One of the most promising sophomore QBs in the nation.
The next problem is Bray’s replacement: Matt Sims. That is where opportunity knocks.
Justin Worley, a high school quarterback from Rock Hill, South Carolina (Northwestern H.S.), was named today the Gatorade National Player of the Year. Past winners of this award include Peyton Manning.
This season, his school won the South Carolina State Championship (Class AAAA-Div II). Worley passed for 5,315 yards and 64 TDs. That’s sixty-four touchdown passes this season.