Tennessee avoided what would have been it’s first 8-loss season. The Vols also avoided a first-ever winless SEC season. But that is not the real story of this game. Read More…
In the first half, the Tennessee defense held Missouri to 7 points (scored on a kickoff return for a TD), only 27 snaps, no big plays (none >20 yards), no Red Zone visits, only 4 first downs, and only 64 total yards.
Then, after taking the second-half opening kickoff, Kendial Lawrence ran a rather simple misdirection running play up the middle for 77 yards and a TD.
It cut the Tennessee lead to 21-14.
It cut a big hole in what confidence Sal Sunseri’s defensive troops may have gathered during the opening half.
It cut open the floodgates of the habit of losing.
The Vol defense is killing the promise of this season.
But you already knew that.
And some of you think of that promise as being long dead.
Beginning with Tyler Bray’s pass that was intercepted and returned for an Akron touchdown on just the fourth play of the game, Tennessee found themselves in a difficult position for much of this game. It wasn’t until the Vols were able to get their third interception deep into the final quarter that Big Orange Country was able to exhale.
For the neutral fan, this was a highly entertaining game. A tally of 977 total yards, 630 of which were in the air, will tend to create that kind of enjoyable viewing. But for the Volunteer fan, this was anything but fun. There were visions of a season-destroying loss that kept appearing in the collective consciousness of the Vol Nation.
There are a lot of cliches involved when it comes to certain situations that arise in life, including sports, and how those situations are handled. Saturday in Knoxville presented an experiment for how an individual, or a group of people such as a college football team, responds when things don’t go their way.
It was just another physio-psychological experiment colored in orange and white.
Much of the response is learned behavior. Yes, there is physical ability, strength, and technique. But the missing leg to a stable chair is the mental strength. Part of that is within the makeup of a person. However, conditioning (psychological) is involved. Scenarios defined as adversity are presented, and actions are implemented in response. Each individual plays his role and all is melded into the group, either positively or negatively.
Robert Neyland knew this well, so well infact that he addressed it with one of his Seven Game Maxims. Maxim No. 3 says, “If at first the game – or the breaks – go against you, don’t let up… put on more steam.”
Easier said than done.
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.