The Vols had a late kickoff Saturday in Starkville, MS. I didn’t fall asleep until well after 2am after the 41-31 loss. So many thoughts were swirling through my head. I am trying to figure out what part of UT’s recent past is because of Derek Dooley, or in spite of him. I am still not sure even today. I do know that the rest of this month becomes increasingly important for the Dooley tenure in Knoxville. To say he has a football mountain climb would be an understatement. Now for Saturday’s Good, Bad and Ugly.
Cordarrelle Patterson. Man this kid is good with a ball in his hands. There is significant talk about him leaving early for the NFL. Personally as a punt and kick returner, I think he’s ready. As a route runner, I don’t think he’s close. However that may not matter much come January. Patterson is an elite athlete.
The running game. Holy moly, how good have the Vols become pounding the rock? Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane got hurt, and the Vols still moved the ball on the ground. Devrin Young is not an every down SEC back, and he got yards consistently Saturday night. Hats off to Jawuan James, Zach Fulton, James Stone, Dallas Thomas, and Tiny Richardson. That was a virtuoso performance.
AJ Johnson. I feel like he is the only defender on the UT squad who knows how to tackle. The Beast was all over the field on Saturday. He racked up twenty one tackles. 21!. That’s a huge number.
Oh boy. Where to begin. Justin Hunter if you don’t want to make Todd McShay seem like a bigger tool than he already is, you need to make some big catches in some tough spots. This loss is not all on your shoulders, but it could’ve been better.
Sal Sunseri’s defense. The first half, like nearly every first half under coach Sal was egregious from a defensive standpoint. Mississippi State moved the ball at will against UT. ESPN kept showing a stat that State was 3-8 at one point on third down. Stats don’t always tell the whole truth, the Bulldogs were successful on first and second down much of the night. Twice the Bulldogs converted on 3rd and 15+. That’s unacceptable. The final, essentially game-ending, drive was painful to watch. I had no confidence in the Volunteer defense.
The Ugly Saturday Edition:
Neal and Lane’s injuries put Devrin Young in a position to be the full time back. He had a costly fumble. That’s not so much of a knock on Young, he’s not that kind of back. He was never meant to be an every down between-the-tackles guy. But when your top two backs go down and the offensive line is still dominating, Young’s fumble was ugly.
Byron Moore’s dropped INT. I don’t have the coaches tape, but that felt like a pick 6 to me.Which would have been a game changing play.
The special teams that didn’t involve Cordarrelle Patterson. Mychal Rivera’s inability to cover the pooch kick, Matt Darr’s shanked punt. Just an ugly night for most of Charlie Coiner’s crew.
The Ugly Program Edition
Barring a near miracle win Saturday against ‘Bama (and the shockingly low line of 15.5 points, which is ugly in and of itself), or a win during a brutal trip to Williams-Brice the week after. Derek Dooley is done.
Did he drop a pick? Did he fumble no? But sooner or later the Vols HAVE to win a game they aren’t supposed to. Are they better than when he came to Knoxville? Absolutely. Would the Vols be undefeated in the B1G or the Big 12? I think so. However, the University of Tennessee is an SEC school, and needs to beat SEC schools. I don’t think Derek Dooley is the guy to do it. Which is unfortunate because I like the guy, and I want him to succeed.
The writing was on the wall after the debacle in Lexington. Now it’s been painted on the wall. It’s time to change. The only thing that can save him is a massive can of paint thinner the rest of this month. November is irrelevant. I hope I’m wrong, I hope he does it.