Game Preview: Tennessee vs. Ohio
Saturday 26 Sept 2009
7:00 pm ET
Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN
Ready to get back to business.
Now that things have settled down to a quasi back-to-normal level, now that Urban has stopped trying to get in the last word, now that the business end of the season is beginning to appear on the horizon…
…it’s time to close out the first third of this season with a resounding win. At the start of this campaign, 2-2 for the first third would have been the minimum acceptable; 3-1 would likely have been the expected tally by the majority of the Vol Nation; and 4-0 would have put Lane Kiffin with a sword laid on his shoulder in a “we now will call you sir” coronation.
So a win Saturday, and expected event by all, will give us the minimum acceptable.
…1-3? Season over. Honeymoon comes to a screeching halt. Just the thought of it gives me chills.
Schools with names like Northern Illinois, Wyoming, Rutgers, North Texas State (I was there for that debacle), and Virginia (long before they got good) scare the livin’ hell out of me. They do. They really do. Paranoia? Nope. We’ve lived up to underwhelming us fans with some real stinkers.
So, I apologize to all students and fans of the Ohio University Bobcats, but the name “Ohio” falls in line with all the aforementioned schools.
But honestly this doesn’t feel like doom waiting around the corner. Mainly because of my faith in this coaching staff. The Most Satisfying Loss In The History Of Tennessee Football won me over. A loss of all things gives me confidence. I’m ready to at least look at the color of the kool-aid in a clear container without sunglasses. I trust the sideline leadership of this program for two reasons: (1) game planning against a top-rated opponent; and (2) no sign of quit from anybody wearing an orange jersey. This group of players has the back of Lane Kiffin and Co.
For starters, there is no way that this defense lets up Saturday. First night game of the season. The orange looks a bit brighter, the grass looks a bit greener, the crowd gets just a bit louder. A little jazzier if you know what I mean. Sure, it’s only Ohio, and it’s only on pay-per-view and ESPN360.com, but it’s another week for our defense to strengthen a national reputation in the making. We’re beginning to be recognized as a squad you don’t want to mess with. Serious physical opponent. No letting up. Relentless pressure start to finish. I think they just can’t wait for that business end of the season to arrive so that they can reek some havoc on the middle class and upper crust of the conference.
The offense? That’s a whole other ball game.
First, here are some numbers through last week’s games. Tennessee has the following national rankings:
- Total Offense: 73rd
- Rushing Offense: 27th
- Passing Offense: 104th
- Scoring Offense: 46th
- Total Defense: 5th
- Rushing Defense: 45th
- Passing Defense: 4th
- Scoring Defense: 28th
A tale of two different sides of the ball. Pretty much tells the story of how we all feel, where we’ve been, why, and I think where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.
But before we all start to trash the offense, let’s give credit to one Vol on the offense.
Montario Hardesty is ranked 10th nationally in rushing with a 115.0 score.
Based on what I’ve seen with my own two eyes, I’m not surprised, and I’m happy for the young man. Montario has had a rough go of it in Orange, mainly because of his propensity to pick up dings and knocks that leave him less than a hundred percent.
But so far this season, he’s playing every down like it’s his last. He runs like his hair is on fire. And I just love it. He fights and scrapes for every inch of territory, and the numbers show he’s been getting his share. It’s as if he knows, or has been told, that it’s his duty to carry this offense on his back. He is the man. I’m not slighting the offensive line, but Hardesty just looks like somebody has put a firecracker up his butt.
He is a pleasure to watch and I’m proud that he’s single handedly carrying on the Tennessee running tradition. And if nothing else, he’s serving as an excellent example to Bryce Brown and David Oku for work effort during a game.
OK, so that means we have to talk about it again – the QB situation. What’s going on? Apparently Lane Kiffin has made this a non-issue by indicating that Crompton will not only start Saturday, but the only way Nick Stevens will see action is if the Vols have a big lead, not if Crompton isn’t getting it done.
OK. I’ll just shut up, hold my peace (piece?), and wish nothing for good things to happen. After all, he looks good handing the ball off. And with a pretty mediocre group of receivers, at least by Vol history standards if not by lesser standards, too, it looks like some pretty boring football for the foreseeable future. But, I can handle winning ugly.
Now, on to the house guests for the weekend.
Who are the Bobcats?
The Ohio University Bobcats from Athens in the hills of southeastern Ohio are a member of the Mid American Conference (MAC), East Division, which is a competitive conference known for decent football, but is well within the second tier of college football, below the big conferences. So, Ohio is a team that Tennessee should beat handily by physically dominating them with superior athletes.
Since winning the 2006 MAC East Division championship (defeated by Central Michigan in the MAC championship game) and going to the GMAC Bowl (a loss to Southern Mississippi 28-7), the first bowl appearance by the Bobcats since 1968, Ohio has struggled: 6-6 in 2007 and 4-8 in 2008. However, last season, the Bobcats’ offense set three single-season school passing records (passing yards, passing yards per game, and TD passes), and the total offense was the third-highest in school history, led by QB Boo Jackson, 6-1/201 from Gardena, California. The Bobcats nearly upset Ohio State last season.
So far this season, Boo Jackson and the Bobcats are 2-1 with victories over Cal Poly and on the road at North Texas State in overtime. Their lone loss was at home to Connecticut. Jackson did not play last week against Cal Poly because of a torn labrum in his right, throwing shoulder. Theo Scott, a 6-2/209 senior from Long Beach, California stepped in and threw for a career-high 236 yards and three TD passes, so maybe the Bobcat offense didn’t miss a beat.
Ohio’s leading receiver is Taylor Price, a 6-1/212 senior from Hillard, Ohio who has 17 receptions for 247 yards and 3 TDs in the first 3 games. But their big-play receiver is Terrence McCrae, 6-4/203 junior from Vanderbilt, Pennsylvania, averaging 29 yards per reception this season
Chris Garrett, a 5-8/185 senior from Bristow, Virginia is the Bobcats’ biggest running threat. He has run for 169 yards on 41 carries so far in 2009.
A long-time Husker leads Ohio
Frank Solich is the Ohio head coach, arriving in Athens for the 2005 season after being the head coach at the University of Nebraska for six seasons (1998-2003). Solich is Husker red – he spent nearly 30 seasons as a Nebraska player, assistant coach, and head coach. He was the Big 12 Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2001 and had nine-win seasons in five of his six years at the helm of the Big Red, including a run at the national championship facing Miami in the 2002 Rose Bowl. Before that, Solich was an assistant under Tom Osborne for 19 seasons, four as the freshman team coach and 15 as running backs coach. Solich took over for Osborne after the latter retired after the 1997 season. When Solich was fired after the 2003 season, critics pointed to the fact that Solich’s Huskers won only one Big 12 North title and conference championship in 6 years and had a 1-9 record on the road against ranked teams (0-9 in the Big 12). Solich’s successor, Bill Callahan, was not successful, leading to the firing of AD Steve Pederson who had fired Solich four years earlier.
When Frank Solich became Ohio University’s head coach in 2005, after taking a year off following his dismissal from Lincoln, he brought a renewed excitement for Bobcat football. Solich’s first home game as Ohio head coach was a memorable one. Ohio under its largest ever crowd (24,545) defeated Pitt 16-10 on national television. On July 18, 2008, Solich was given an extension of his contract through the 2013 season.
As a player, Solich was a fullback as part of Bob Devaney’s first class of freshmen in 1962. He was All-Big Eight in 1965 and was the first Nebraska player to rush for 200 yards in a game and the first Husker to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Solich is a member of the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame.
A Reunion of Huskers at Neyland Stadium
During Solich’s year off between the Nebraska and Ohio head-coaching stints, he spent time at Tampa Bay Buccaneer practices and meetings to observe how Monte Kiffin worked as a defensive coordinator. You see, Kiffin and Solich go way back. Monte was a two-way tackle at Nebraska in 1962 when Solich was a freshman running back. And, when Solich was a high school football coach, he solicited advice from Kiffin when Monte was an assistant coach at Nebraska.
So Saturday is a Big Red Reunion of sorts for two war horses of football coaching, and hopefully the Big Orange faithful will recognize the contributions that both have made to the game. General Neyland would be proud.
Rocky Top Talk reported on Tuesday that senior OG Vladimir Richard will not play due to a knee injury, and Vols’ leading receiver Quintin Hancock has a broken jaw and will be out for multiple games. Richard’s absence will be filled by Jarrod Shaw moving from OT to OG, and redshirt freshman Aaron Douglas will make his first start at tackle. He is a converted tight end.
Who’s gonna win?
Unfortunately, Ohio’s freshman kicker has a pretty good leg. Otherwise, a shutout would be a decent prediction.
Tennessee 30 Ohio 6
This Week’s Games Involving Upcoming 2009 Opponents [all ET]
Thursday September 24
4 Mississippi (2-0) at South Carolina (2-1) [7:30 pm]
Saturday September 26
Marshall (2-1) at Memphis (1-2) [1:00 pm]
Arkansas (1-1) at 3 Alabama (3-0) [3:30 pm]
1 Florida (3-0) at Kentucky (2-0) [6:00 pm]
Ball State (0-3) at Auburn (3-0) [7:00 pm]
Arizona State (2-0) at 21 Georgia (2-1) [7:00 pm]
Vanderbilt (1-2) at Rice (0-3) [8:00 pm]
This Week’s Games Involving Past 2009 Opponents [all ET]
Saturday September 26
Western Kentucky (0-3) at Navy (1-2) [3:30 pm]
1 Florida (3-0) at Kentucky (2-0) [6:00 pm]
UCLA (3-0) BYE WEEK
Televised SEC Games
Thanks to Chris Low at ESPN.com, here is this week’s SEC TV schedule.
LSU at Mississippi State, 12:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network/ESPN Regional
Arkansas at Alabama, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Florida at Kentucky, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Arizona State at Georgia, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Ball State at Auburn, 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net
Ohio at Tennessee, 7 p.m. ET, Pay per view
Vanderbilt at Rice, 8 p.m. ET, Comcast Sports Southeast