I have spent a lot of time in the last 36 hours trying to figure out how to analyze this game. Dooley always says “It’s never as good as it seems; it’s never as bad as it seems”. So I have been trying to keep that in mind. After some self-reflection, maybe I was more guilty of the former than the latter. Maybe NC State isn’t that good, and neither is Tennessee. Georgia State is just a waste in terms of determining how good Tennessee is. Maybe Florida’s opening game jitters against Bowling Green were simply that. Now on to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
I was pleased with the entire first half. I liked the way Tennessee responded with two reasonably quick scores after Trey Burton got his first touchdown. I was thrilled with the goal line stand at the end of the first half. I liked AJ Johnson’s wildcat package. I thought Rajion Neal had his best game of the young season. I also thought Zach Rogers had a nice game. Even without his acrobatic save off of the carom. I saw more good defensive interior work by Mo Couch and Daniel McCullers. Both made repeated trips to the Gator backfield, and allowed the linebackers to make plays. I thought that the crowd was impressive. Just a good solid half of football for the Volunteers.
First of all three missed extra points is three too many for an entire season, much less three games. None have mattered…yet. It’s sickening. Tyler Bray was just off. I didn’t see bad decision making necessarily, just bad throws. Anybody who has shot free throws knows, some days just aren’t good. Bray was just not good. What made Bray worse were some crucial drops. And not just by anybody, drops by Cordarrelle Patterson, and Justin Hunter. Especially in the second half the drops could’ve made this game more competitive late. Would it have mattered ultimately? No. I don’t think so. The defense did not have enough gas to play smash-mouth football with the Gators. The longer the game went on the better Burton, and Mike Gillislee got. Jeff Driskel was much better than anybody anticipated. The Vols ran out of gas, and couldn’t contain the Gators. They simply just don’t have enough depth. It’s safe to say that the Vols have four quality SEC linebackers in Johnson, Curt Maggitt, Herman Lathers, and Jacques Smith. But nobody can give them a significant and quality breather yet. The same goes for the defensive line. McCullers, Couch, Darrington Sentimore, and Daniel Hood can all play. But what if they get tired? The Gators rotated 8 or 9 defensive lineman out there all game, and it showed in the fourth quarter.
For the second year in a row the Vols lost a significant contributor against the Florida on a non-contact play. This time it was Brian Randolph, who is our best safety. Honorable mention to the fans (including me) who grossly over-react to one game, or even three. It’s not over yet. A victory this week over Akron, and hopefully a big win in Athens in twelve days could erase this taste.