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.
It was getting late in the second quarter and the natives were getting just a bit more than restless. The completely outmanned Georgia State Panthers were down only 14-6 in a game that should already have been decided. But Tennessee struck swiftly and decisively, just as they did last week against NC State. And then it was decided. Thoughts immediately turned to next Saturday.
As a Wildcat receiver for four years, senior Matt Roark did little. As Kentucky’s quarterback for a single afternoon, he did what numerous Wildcat quarterbacks could not do for more than a quarter century — beat Tennessee. Matt Roark is now a legend in the annals of Kentucky Wildcat football. His opponents on Saturday are now infamous, having lost their seventh conference game this season, the most conference losses in the annals of Tennessee Volunteer football.
Archibald Barns returned a Tyler Bray pass 100 yards for a touchdown. Eric Gordon returned a Jordan Rogers pass 90 yards for a touchdown.
That’s the kind of night it was at Neyland Stadium in one of the most memorable Tennessee-Vanderbilt games in a generation or more.
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.
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.
Every game is a ‘big game’ for Vol fans. That’s what makes us great fans. We care. A lot.
But Saturday’s game against South Carolina is a really Big Game. This team has made it a big game due to psychological concerns – we now have a phobia of, a neurotic aversion to, a downright fear of the Dreaded Second Half.
I had a dream about Saturday’s game…
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 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.
The great North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith once wrote, and often said, that the first five minutes of the second half were the most important minutes of a basketball game.
Little did he know that his precept would fittingly describe a football game on Saturday night in Knoxville between Georgia and Tennessee.