Browsing Posts published by Steve

Alabama’s win was less triumphant, so we’ll save the best for last.

Georgia Southern vs. Alabama

What Steve said:

This game presents a dilemma for Coach Saban.  Blake Sims is the fourth string running back, so he’s in line to get a lot of carries, but he’s also effectively the third string quarterback (assuming Phillip Ely redshirts as expected).  The Eagles shotgun spread option offense will serve as the scout team in preparation for Gus Malzahn’s Auburn Tigers next week.  Score: Alabama 55 – 3

What Mike said:

Auburn pre-game week starts early. Not much to say here other than Alabama 42-0

What actually happened:  

Ummm….very little good.  Who would have thought that facing a triple option team without your top three defensive tackles would be a problem?  The Eagles managed to capitalize on an inexperienced true freshman who had not taken the field outside of garbage time and slipped up the middle repeatedly for big gains, including an 82 yard touchdown.  The offense actually did fine, never punting on the day and with Trent Richardson topping 170 yards for the third time this season, with three TDs.  Richardson not only leads the SEC in scoring, but he’s 30 points ahead of the next closest player, the only non-kicker in the top five, and has scored more than double the points of the next closest non-kicker (132 to 62).  Let that sink in for a minute.  Keep in mind, he’s done this while facing four top 35 rushing defenses this season, more than any other player in the country, and with every team loading the box to stop him.  But that distracts from this game not being what it should have been, an utter blowout.  GSU was never closer than two scores, but the Tide didn’t really pull away until the third quarter either.  That triple option is a killer.  The Tide won 45-21.

continue reading…

How did we get to week eleven already?

Tennessee vs. Arkansas

What Mike said:

Another road hiccup, Fayetteville’s November winds wreak havoc on Tennessee’s passing game. Tauren Poole struggles. Biggest disappointment of the season as Volunteer fans get supremely irrational. Final Score Arkansas 28-13

What Steve said:

Did you catch the part about “fifth ranked team in six weeks?” I forgot to mention that four of those teams are in or near the top ten in practically every poll. When saying, “yeah, but Knile Davis …” don’t forget that he was third string last year before they lost their top two running backs, both of which return this season. Coach Petrino can handle broken running backs (thus spake Michael Bush). This schedule is just brutal. Score Arkansas 34-25

What actually happened: 

Nothing good. I mean nothing good. 49-7.

Mike’s reviews, retractions, and/or mea culpas:

Another road hiccup, Fayetteville’s November winds wreak havoc on Tennessee’s passing game. Tauren Poole struggles.Biggest disappointment of the season as Volunteer fans get supremely irrational.

Compared to some of my predictions, this one is spot on. I wasn’t close on the score.

 

Steve’s reviews, retractions, and/or mea culpas:  

At no point in writing these back during the preseason did it occur to me that I was actually predicting Tennessee would start the season 0-6 in SEC play.  I was dramatically off on the score this week and given UT’s difficulties with the Arkansas defense, I’m no longer bullish on the Vols chances against Vanderbilt.  I won’t go so far as to predict a black and gold win right now, but I won’t be surprised by one, either.

Alabama vs. Mississippi State

What Steve said:

I’m just not buying all the talk about the Bulldogs.  For all the praise Chris Relf has received, he hasn’t really done much to deserve it.  Facing this Tide team won’t help much either.  Like last season, this game is over by halftime.  Score: Tide 31 – 10

What Mike said:

There is no shortage of joy in the short 88 mile bus-trip home from Starkville. The Tide cruises. Pre-game there was a lot of hype for Mississippi State, some bulldogs even chirp that the Tide will be 0-for Mississippi in 2011. No such luck. The Tide run right by the Bulldogs. Chris Relf’s jersey is so dirty that even that dark maroon is stained Starkville green. Alabama 28-10

What actually happened:   The defense was absolutely dominant.  If Alabama could find a way to get all special teams play banned from football, they would be the undisputed number one team in the country, but alas, that’s a glaring weakness.  Miss State’s only score came on a drive that started on the Alabama 22 yard line due to a short kickoff that also involved the kicker missing a tackle on the return.  Miss State had their own special teams woes, however.  Like the Tide, they missed two field goals.  The Bulldogs also added a muffed punt.  Had Alabama not missed the field goal attempt after the punter fumbled, I would say MSU had the rougher night on special teams, but Alabama’s gaffe cost points.

AJ McCarron had an off night, repeatedly missing targets, and getting picked off once.  It didn’t help that Barrett Jones didn’t play, leaving Alabama to start with it’s third string left tackle.  Alfred McCullough played well in his stead, but McCullough is needed elsewhere and wasn’t available to fill those roles.   That allowed the Bullies to load the box all night against Trent Richardson and it showed.  He had trouble getting loose early in the game, but took over in the second half.  Alabama never trailed, and the game was never really in doubt.  Tide rolled, 24-7.

Steve’s reviews, retractions, and/or mea culpas:  I nailed the Chris Relf thing, but that was pretty much a season-long prediction of his performance, which has also been fairly accurate.  On the night, he failed to complete a pass, and ran for negative three yards.  In fact, the Bulldogs used three different QBs, none of which found much success.  The game was not over by halftime, but the writing was on the wall. Miss State just couldn’t move the ball.  I wasn’t too terrible on the score, giving each team an extra score they didn’t earn.

Mike’s reviews, retractions, and/or mea culpas:

I was pretty close. Especially for me. I was just off by a few points. Since I was dreadfully wrong about Ole Miss, I will again bite the bullet on that one, since I referenced it again.

We all know where this is headed, so we’ll let UT go first.

MTSU vs. Tennessee

What Mike said:

The Blue Streaks come in super fired up and hang tough for a half. UT scores 4 times in the second half to put the game away. Final score UT 38-13 8-1

What Steve said:

Thank goodness for November! I won’t predict a Vols loss here because they are better than the Blue Raiders, but this has trap game written all over it. Rick Stockstill is an excellent coach who recognizes what a win here would do for his program. More than that, he’s an excellent coach not coming off a four game murderer’s row hoping for a breather before facing it’s fifth nationally-ranked program in six weeks. The Vols letdown, but not enough to lose. Score UT 23-20

continue reading…

Thoughts and observations from the game.

The sun came up this morning, but for the life of me, I don’t know why that’s supposed to be a good thing.

In a perfect world, Trent Richardson’s performance yesterday would have strengthened his Heisman standings.  Despite the defense clearly keying on him on every single down, he managed 169 yards from scrimmage, including an impressive 24 yard run that most people will quickly forget because the next play was the Marquis Maze pass gone wrong.

Is there a more overrated player than Tyrann Matthieu?  His only real contribution was a dirty play that took a true All-American quality corner — Dre Kirkpatrick — out of the game.  There is no arguing that it was just the speed of play or an accident.  He got beat, and decided to take the player out.  Did he intend to injure Kirkpatrick?  Probably not, though I have no idea what he was thinking.  Was there anyway he could believe he was making a legitimate football play?  No chance.  LSU’s secondary is extremely good, but Matthieu is only the fourth best player on it.

Is there a more underrated player than Eric Reid?  He made plays all night and all over the field, including the biggest play of the game — stripping the ball from Michael Williams at the goal line.

I’ve heard a lot of people saying that because of the lengths of the kicks, Tide fans shouldn’t fault the kickers.  I do agree that those are not gimme kicks that were missed. But the issue isn’t with a missed kick here or there, it’s with missing four kicks, and missing them egregiously.  Those kicks never had a chance.  They didn’t cut just outside the upright.  One didn’t go far enough (and was still wide), one was blocked because it was so low, one was so wide that it had not passed the line of scrimmage before it was obvious it was missed.

Still, Alabama’s defense played arguably better than expected — as did LSU’s — and there is little doubt that these are still the two best teams in college football.  Which is of course problematic.  Most folks, myself included, don’t believe there should be a rematch.  But, as the system dictates, the top two teams in the game should play in the championship.  If Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State and Oregon beats Stanford, and we assume everyone believes that the SEC pair are one and two, the issue becomes this:  do voters manipulate their ballots to make sure their isn’t a rematch or do we get a rematch which will invalidate the importance of the first matchup?   Neither is ideal.

Kicking.

 

 

Kicking.

South Carolina vs. Tennessee

What Mike said:

In a game billed as the SEC East Championship game, neither team disappoints. Marcus Lattimore goes crazy, scoring twice. Alshon Jeffery pumps his gas twice in the end zone as well. A furious 4th quarter comeback by Tyler Bray ensues. With time clicking off the clock Bray finds Justin Hunter in the end zone. Final score UT 31-28
7-1

What Steve said:

No rest for the weary, huh? Fourth week, fourth straight opponent that beat the Vols last season (three of the four by multiple TDs). Mr. Bray, meet Mr. Clowney. Despite the fact that this will be the fourth consecutive top twenty program the Vols will have faced, rumblings will begin in the fanbase that perhaps Coach Dooley isn’t the right man for the job. It’s not right, but it will happen. Perhaps Coach Spurrier can give him the secret to winning in Knoxville during the post-game handshake. Score: Cocks 31-17

What actually happened: 

In a defensive struggle, South Carolina managed mistakes better than the Vols did.  It was ugly, and when South Carolina made mistakes, Tennessee didn’t take advantage, and they made blunders nearly as big. Final score South Carolina 14-3.

Mike’s reviews, retractions, and/or mea culpas:

Hmmm, well since three of the four players I mentioned didn’t even play in this game, and the fourth was an amazing non-factor. (Partly because Stephen Garcia also is gone). This prediction wasn’t even close.  Steve mentioned Dooley’s “hot seat”. He gets mad props for me on that for being right. There is talent in Knoxville, but not enough right now, and not all of it is healthy.

Steve’s reviews, retractions, and/or mea culpas:

Again, I got the winner and not much else.  Tyler Bray didn’t play of course, and likely won’t again, at least not in a game where he would be a difference maker.  While they didn’t make Jadaveon Clowney a complete non-factor, the offensive line did manage to keep Justin Worley on his feet most of the night with solid pass protection.  What he did with that protection looked a lot like you would expect from a 3rd-string true freshman getting his first collegiate start against the best pass defense in the country.

As for the fan reaction to Coach Dooley, my inbox certainly saw it’s share of coaching criticism, including one Vols fan gloating over predicting the failure of the Worley experiment, but I haven’t seen anyone go that extra step and call for his ouster (though Roll Bama Roll‘s Meltdown Time on Tuesday will likely feature a few calls for his head).  I sense a lot of people don’t want to go through even further turnover as the result of another coaching change, so they are holding their tongues.  Long-term, I believe those reservations will pay off.  With championships?  I don’t know, but certainly with the kind of stability this program really needs which will be a solid platform for the next coach if it’s not ultimately Dooley.  Vols fans bristle at the comparison, but if Dooley can do for UT what Mike Shula did for UA, that’s a net positive on Rocky Top.

Tennessee vs. Alabama

What Steve said:

I don’t expect it to be as large of a blowout as last year, when the spread set a record in the series. Still, the Tide’s defense is designed to stop offenses like the Vols (and has — the Vols have not scored more than 10 points in each of it’s last three tries) and the nation’s best secondary is licking it’s chops at the thought of Bray trying to go deep. The Vols do top 10 points this time (moral victory!). Score: Tide 38-17.

Please, Vols fans.  Don’t be too hard on Tyler Bray.  He won’t be the best QB on the field.  He won’t even be top two.  He’ll also be responsible for the turnover that breaks this game open.  But that’s more because of the quality of the defenses each of them has to face and not because of his personal lack of talent.  DeAndrew White receives the “DJ Hall Memorial Award” with a seven catch, 125 yard day.  Trent Richardson will sit out the fourth quarter for the fourth time this season.  Score: Tide 38 – 17

What Mike said:

Nothing to see hear folks, move along, move along. Final score Alabama 21-13

Nothing good happens for UT other than the fact that the score is closer than recent games. Alabama 21-13

What actually happened:  

According to the Alabama players, they were too arrogant coming into the game and actually thought Tennessee would just lay down.  Obviously, that didn’t happen.  UT played well for a half and frankly, Alabama didn’t.  AJ McCarron was particularly sloppy in the first two frames, missing open receivers egregiously, and getting picked off by a linebacker dropping into coverage.  Whatever was said at the half worked, though.  Trent Richardson added two more TDs to his season total moving into second place in the country in scoring.  McCarron came out crisp, completing his first eight passes of the half, and more importantly, participated in what has become an Alabama quarterback tradition:  having a career day against the Vols secondary.  He’s now the fourth consecutive starter to set personal bests in passing yards against Tennessee.  After getting their act together at halftime, the game was never close.  Tennessee would not convert another first down or ever threaten to score again.  Alabama would rattle off 31 unanswered points before ceding the reins to the second and third stringers.  Lost in the poor play during the first half is also the fact that the Alabama defense never allowed Tennessee inside the 20.   Tide rolled to victory – 37-6.

Steve’s reviews, retractions, and/or mea culpas:

So, taunting Tyler Bray just looks cruel right now.  Obviously, he wasn’t responsible for any turnovers, and the turnovers the Vols did cough up both occurred after Alabama had the game in hand.  Clearly, I was off on the score as well, though I was within a point of what Alabama would score.  That’s nullified somewhat by my statement that the score would be closer than the record-setting margin of the year before, since that margin was equaled.  On the year (and given Bray’s and Hunter’s status, this is a trend that will likely continue), I’ve overestimated the Vols offense six of seven games.  DeAndrew White did not earn the “DJ Hall Memorial Award.”  He didn’t have a single catch.  Marquis Maze did manage to top 100 yards receiving, but it was built largely on a 69 yard reception rather than a series of back-breaking first down catches which would merit the honor.  Richardson also played half of the fourth quarter, and had he sat, it would have been the sixth time this season.

Mike’s reviews, retractions, and/or mea culpas

Well. For a half…it was beautiful. I nearly broke my hand. Pumping my fist in joy Tiger Woods style after the successful fake punt, and nearly hitting my wall.  I enjoyed the first half as much as any part of the Derek Dooley era. No Tennessee didn’t get inside the 20. But this version of Tennessee is hard to get a bead on. Is it the same version that played Cincinnati? Nope.  I was disappointed in another 31 point loss to the Tide. But, this time last week, I wouldn’t have predicted 21-13 Alabama either. So much for the validity of pre-season predictions.

There’s not much introduction I can do for this game that isn’t blatantly obvious.  Alabama had not beaten Tennessee in seven seasons, the Tide’s longest winless streak in the series.  Tennessee fans still believed in their coach, even though this season had already witnessed two losses (though one of them was the traditional early season loss to Florida, so it could be overlooked).  There was no way the Vols could lose at home to an Alabama team that was also sporting two losses, including a home loss to the same Georgia team that beat the Vols the week prior in Athens.  But then this happened:


Download | YouTube Converter

Absolute dominance the entire game.  The offense was merely effective (Brodie Croyle would only attempt seven passes, completing five before being replaced by Tyler Watts who only tried five himself) but the defense was almost inhumane. Casey Clausen was picked off three times and the defense recovered three more fumbles, including one returned for a TD for the first score of the game.  That seven point lead was as close as Tennessee got all day.  The boys in crimson only surrendered one defensive score — in the third quarter to make it a two score deficit — and the Vols would never threaten again.

The Tide went on to win the West but be ineligible to play in Atlanta that year.  Even though UT would win three more games in this series between then and now, in hindsight, it’s easy to point to this game as the beginning of the end for Phil Fulmer, but more importantly, it was a reason to believe Alabama was finally turning things around from the Mike Dubose years.

This is how I prefer to remember him

In retrospect, this win seems like an odd choice, even to me, but at the time, it was extremely important to this young freshman at the University of Alabama.

Alabama had not lost to Tennessee since 1985 — a span of ten games — but the previous year, it took a David Palmer two point conversion to come from behind just to tie it.  Tennessee was not having a good season themselves, standing at 3-3 with losses to Mississippi State, Florida and UCLA.  A young kid named Peyton Manning would start for the Vols in this game and he gave the Vols hope.  With the Tide up 17-13 and barely a minute left to play, Manning nearly willed the Vols to the game winning touchdown.  Nearly.  On fourth down from the Bama ten yard line, his pass would fall fecklessly to the turf, ending any hopes of an orange victory.

More than that, this freshman back in Tuscaloosa was allowed to believe for 364 more days that 1993 was just a fluke.  That order had been restored and that crimson dominance on the Third Saturday in October was a law of nature and not merely just a long streak in a series defined by streaks.

One of my favorite moments in this series is fairly recent, largely due more to the context than the game itself.  It was 2007, Coach Saban‘s first season.  Needless to say, it had been a difficult offseason, and while the season had started decently, there were hiccups to be sure.  It was also the first year of this blog, and while I wasn’t a writer for it at the time, I sure did have a lot to say in the comments.  To top it all off, it fell on my birthday that year which also was our first year living in Tennessee.  I didn’t just want a crimson victory.  I needed one.


Download YouTube Video | YouTube MP3 Converter continue reading…