Good Morning, Everyone,
At this point we can say that College Football has kicked off for the fall of 2016. There were some great football games over the weekend with some surprising results. On Thursday, I was surprised by the results of the Vol vs. Appy State game because I had expected the Vols to handle Appy State easily, but after all the upsets over the Labor Day weekend the Vol’s win looks a lot better.
To start this edition off, I can say that it was a great crowd. They came early and stayed late. There were a few lulls in the noise, but the Vol Fans really increased the stadium energy for the Defense especially late in the second half and OT. It impacted Appy State’s offense at times especially in the Student’s end of the field. The one negative for the crowd was that were some “Boo’s” on offensive play calls in the second half.
It was really hard to see the game’s play by play execution details at the game. I watched the replay on Friday and I think that the TV guys did a good job. First let’s look at what Appy State was doing that disrupted the Vols in the first half. After that we will look at what the Vols were doing.
On Offense, they played with very tight OL splits. Their OL players were literally shoulder to shoulder. They normally they had a TE or Slot back in tight to along with another Back/TE in the backfield. It was almost an Unbalanced Line look on their strong side. That was normally to their left side even when the ball was on the right hash mark. Their OL splits let them double team block easily on interior runs. They combined that with Chop/Cut Blocks to cut down the Vol interior DL trying to get penetration. I think their regular use of Chop Blocks was one reason Butch did not use Tuttle in the game. Early in the game their passing attack was quick short throws to get the ball out of the QB’s hands. They had two very good speed players. First, a WR that they put in motion to the weak side of the formation to get him open with running plays or short passes. Second, their RB who was their best player both fast and tough. Their success was on interior runs and plays to the weak side away from their motion and strong side. A point to remember is that after their second score to get 13 Points, the defense adjusted and while Appy State picked up a few first downs they did not mount another sustained drive in either the 2d Half or the OT.
On Defense, Appy State played a 3 – 4 front with a very experienced secondary. They tackled very well. Watching the replay and going over their roster, it was as if they were playing with 7 Fast Middle Linebackers. There was always at least one more player to cover gaps than Vol Blockers. If they figured the Vols were going to run, they covered the gaps but did not blitz. They were able to stop many of the Vol runs at 1 or 2 yard gains. When they had the Vols in a passing situation, which happened often, they would blitz using numbers and quickness to break thru the interior gaps. I heard one comment that Coleman Thomas had a bit of a high ankle sprain that hindered his mobility. I did not see him pulling on any running plays. Appy State’s front 7 did a really good job on all the Vol plays trying to go to the outside. Their big Outside LB’s really attacked all plays in the flats. Their DB’s contained the Vol WR’s after short catches.
On Special Teams, the Vols played well except for four really bad plays. The worst being the fumbled punt, followed by two really bad penalties. Appy State had one really good punt return that was caused by the Vol Punter kicking a long line drive punt that was not over the returners head and if the Punter had not tackled the Appy State Returner that could have resulted in a score for them.
On Defense, the Vols held Appy to 3 of on 3rd Down conversions with only one conversion in the second half. Our secondary made plays and Micah Abernathy was the leading tackler in his first start at Safety. In the second half, he cut off the plays that had been so successful for big yardage in the first half for Appy State. One thing to note was that Abernathy and McDowell were both tackling their players short of first downs. That paid off as the game progressed. McNeil really played a good solid game after Reeves-Maybin was ejected for the targeting penalty. The Vols did not rotate a lot of players on either side of the ball and most played every snap of the game. We should note that while Appy State repeatedly had players down and out for plays with heat related “injuries” the Vols had none.
On Offense, the Vol were not consistent. I think Josh Dobbs had one of his worst days at QB. He made some bad throws and trying to make a play he held the ball too long instead of throwing it away. To quote an Old School Coach, “Throwing the ball away and punting is not a bad play.” It is better than a Sack or giving up an Interception. Appy State had put a lot of pressure on him up the middle early. After that Josh seemed to leave the pocket too quickly at times and when he went outside his OT’s the Appy State players were able to really able to really get after him because he had run to them. Josh played his best in the 4th QTR and OT. Our wide running game could not get on track due to their pursuit, but as the game progressed we ran the ball better going right at the Appy State front 7. Their defense really did a good job on Alvin’s outside game both running and receiving. They were really keying on him and it worked. Preston Williams had his best game in the first half. They appeared to make adjustments on him in the second half, but Josh Malone picked his game up then. In the second half, Appy State was not as successful at guessing the Vol’s play calls and the Vols had their most success both running and passing the ball.
The best things about this game, were that we were able to come from behind, and that we won the game. We had no injuries and lost no players. We learned some lessons and showed some character on the comeback. A bunch of ranked Power Five teams fell to football teams much worst than Appy State. We have a tough game under the players’ belts and another week to correct the problems that we experienced in this game. The thing that we did not do well are correctable and that is a good thing.
As a point on Game Philosophy, we all need to remember that it is much more fun to suffer a “Tough Win” than to endure a “Tough Loss”.
Time to go and get ready for Bristol.