Good Morning, Everyone,
What a weekend! I just about “O.D.’d” on Football over the weekend. It started with an early drive to Knoxville to see the Vols play, followed by games on the radio for the drive home, and games until after Midnight when I got home. The good news I was able to watch most of the teams that are on the Vols coming schedule. My assessment is that we are going to be playing some very talented teams that have a combination of defense and offensive talent. The next six weeks are going to be interesting and a real challenge for the Team and the Fans. We will need some ugly wins. This is a tough schedule.
I have reflected on last Saturday’s win. It was not “pretty”, but it was a win. There was more than a bit of bad news; and however, there were some good things that game. First, the worst news was that it was another week with injuries to key players on the Vol’s defense. We will not know the full extent of those injuries impact on the Vol’s year until the next few games are over. The good news relative to that was that the players that stepped in for the game played well, and I would say better than expected at both linebacker and corner. Jumper had 7 tackles in the game and Cortez McDowell had 3 tackles. Buchanan played a pretty solid Corner with no penalties and good tackling. He turned on the ball in the end zone for a big play. Stephan Griffin also played well.
The defense really played well. This was a 5th Year QT with a solid team around him. We stopped them inside the Red Zone with one exception. They ran a really good play action for an Option Run to the wide side of the field and our Nickleback bit on the run fake, leaving the WR open in the end zone for the TD. We held the QB well below his normal completion percentage. He threw the ball fast and often threw the ball away when under pressure rather than taking a sack. He was often hit following a good rush, but there were no sacks by the Vols.
The thing that disturbed me the most about the game were the penalties by the Vols. First, the unit since Butch has been at UT that has been the best overall on the team has been Special Teams. The penalties on that unit were terrible and hurt the team badly. Secondly, the other penalties were on players that are looked upon as Team Leaders and were at critical times on offensive drives or on defense. Each one had a negative impact on the team’s performance. Penalties kept them in the game. We were lucky that they did not cost us the game. Postgame you can tell Butch was not a “Happy Camper” about this area of the game.
One observation on players with bad plays. Alvin Kamara and Preston Williams are both really talented players who are counted upon to be contributors to the Vol’s winning games. Sometimes good players try too hard and do not use good game sense. Alvin has stepped in as Punt Returner with Cam Sutton out. Cam had big plays but as a rule he would “Fair Catch” balls if there was a doubt about a good return opportunity. Alvin seems to try to return every punt and that has resulted in lost yardage and penalties. Preston wants to break every pass reception for a big play and caused an Interception by not catching a ball last weekend that literally hit him in the face. Derrick Barnett lined up offside on a 3rd Down play leading to an Ohio score. A lot of fumbles are caused by a player losing ball control while trying to break tackles.
On the Florida Game. Both teams undefeated. Both teams have good defenses and some talented players on offense. Why are the Vols favored? The Vols have played three teams with one ACC team. Those teams were all Bowl Teams last year and two were conference champions. Ohio and Appy State are favored to win their conferences this year. Their records l
ast year were 26 – 12. Two of these teams have wins over Power 5 teams this year. The Gators have played three teams and Kentucky was their lone Power 5 opponent. None were Bowl Teams last year. None are favored to win their conference this year. Their records last were 9 – 27 and none have beaten a Power 5 team this year.
I guess to sum it all up going into this weekend, the Vols have been tested and played some tough games against good teams. They have played a lot of kids in meaningful action and at critical times in games that were on the line. They were tough in the 4th QTR in every game. They have made mistakes and won despite those mistakes. I hope that they have their dumb plays out of their system. The players who made mistakes recovered and made big plays later in the games that led to our wins. Look at the way Hurd and Dobbs played on the last scoring drive. Early in the game the TV guys had seemed to think that Ohio had Hurds number when he was averaging 2 yards or less per carry. His runs in the second half and 4th QTR changed that story.
On the other side, the Gators have not been tested by their opposition.
One note from the last couple of games about the Vol Offense. The Vols have “tendencies”. Fans will say everyone knows what we are going to run. All good teams have tendencies. They want to force the other team to sell out to stop a play or a series of plays. Cutcliff would run a play several times to make the other team react when that play was shown. He did that to set up another play. Our long throws were set up off running plays that forced the other to defend the run first. Josh has much more time to set up and throw when the other team is in a “run first defense”. Both Hurd and Kamara are used to set up these WR pass first plays. Based upon what we have seen the past two years, at this time I do not think that Butch has had the Vols show everything on offense that they want to do or can do.
The final question on this game will be the injury status for the Vols. Will Chance Hall be able to come in on the Right OT spot, will Coleman Thomas be completely over his ankle injury and able to return to Center, will Martin be healthy at CB, will Josh Smith be able to play any at WR, and will Reeves-Maybin be able to play at LB. I think the injury on the OT slots have had the biggest negative game impact on the Vol’s play to date. If most of these are answered in with a “Yes” I feel even better about the Vols on Saturday.
On to Saturday and more “Football Time in Tennessee!!”