I said following the Auburn game that if Tennessee lost to Vanderbilt for the second year in a row, it would be disgusting.
Well, it was.
It was every bit as horrible as I imagined, if not a little worse.
I’m gonna spare you guys the preamble this week, and I’m reserving comment on the overturned spot except for this: I think the officials got the call right in the end, BUT I didn’t see the conclusive evidence needed from the replay to justify changing it. I guess the ends justify the means.
That doesn’t mean it’s fair nor does that make it suck any less. It is what it is. And hey, that’s just my two cents.
Now that that’s outta the way, let’s look at a couple instances where Vanderbilt’s execution and Tennessee’s lack thereof tipped the game in the Commodores’ favor.
Tennessee’s first drive of the game. The Vols line up in the I formation, which is fairly unorthodox for offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian. It appears that the Vols go with the POWER O play, a staple of many college and professional play books. As such, I like the call here. Show the defense an unfamiliar look, but come out and hit ‘em in the mouth.
The keys here are the LG pulling from the backside and the TE’s block on the DE on the play side.
The TE has a really tough assignment on this play; he’s trying to get across the body to the inside shoulder of a much bigger DE, and if not turn him out, at least get upfield some with his block.
For this play to work, the TE cannot get beat inside. And if he does, the pulling guard is typically supposed to help him out (depending on how it’s coached, and I can’t say for sure as I’m not there during practice).
As we can see, 85 does get beat inside, and though I didn’t highlight it, he got no help from the backside pulling guard.
85’s man drives him all the way over into the hole and makes the play — just flat blew it up. Blocking from the TE position has been an issue all year long. Vol fans who are excited to have Daniel Helm coming in as a TE prospect need to be just as excited about Ethan Wolf. Helm is a threat receiving, but the Vols desperately need a TE that can hold his own blocking.
Plays like this make you question taking a commitment from JUCO prospect Woody Quinn last cycle. Why not take a sure-fire guy who could block instead of Quinn, who’s not seen significant playing time yet.
But I digress. Tennessee ran the ball for no gain then threw an interception on third-and-long after that, which set up the first of two Vanderbilt scoring drives.
A lot of the talk has been about Vandy’s last drive, and I understand why — it won the game. There was a questionable call by the officials and some questionable calls defensively for Tennessee.
But I wanna look at that first TD drive for Vanderbilt, the one started by Dobbs’ pick. The Commodores did what good teams do: they capitalized on the opponent’s mistake with a touchdown.
The drive was a thing of beauty if you’re a Vandy fan. This drive is exactly how Vanderbilt wanted to attack Tennessee. Attack the edges, and put together a sustained drive with several different looks.
VU hit go-to-guy Jordan Matthews on the perimeter with short, rhythm-building throws, ran QB Patton Robinette with the read-option and finished things off with Jerron Seymour near the goal line. This trio accounted for the touchdown and 53 of the 61 yards on this drive.
Let’s look at a couple important plays from this statement-making touchdown series for the Commodores.
Robinette is in the game, so TN should know he’s probably going to run the ball, especially on third-and-two.
60, in green, is going to block the DE and the FB comes behind him to take on the LB.
60 takes the DE way out of the play, and I mean WAY out of the play. Talk about getting blown off the ball. UGH.
The FB gets just enough of the LB for Robinette to get by. The UT LB, in this case Sapp, ends up making the play but not until after Robinette gets the first down and keeps the drive alive. Big third-down conversion for Vandy.
Here again, keep an eye on the DE matched up with the tackle circled in green. The Vandy RB is going right where that end should be. The guard pulls and seals Randolph coming down from his safety position.
So the DE is blown off the ball, again, and the pulling guard seals Randolph.
AJ “The Beast” Johnson meets Seymour in the hole, but gets carried four yards downfield as the Vandy RB keeps his legs churning.
Vanderbilt punched in it for a TD on the next play.
I felt like this drive really set the tone for Vandy. TN didn’t get close to the QB on passing plays, and Vandy absolutely imposed its will on the Vols running the football. Tennessee’s DL stood straight up time and again, losing precious leverage and thus losing position. It’s no coincidence that the Vols’ defensive line has not played well during the four-game losing skid (one sack during that streak). Football is a game won and lost at the point of attack. Tennessee is losing at the line of scrimmage and losing games.
Offensively, I maintain that this scheme does not fit this offensive line’s skills. It never was the best run blocking group, for whatever reason, anyway. They’re all really good individually, but as a unit, they don’t operate Mahoney’s zone blocking scheme very effectively. I don’t think they have the footwork nor the understanding to make it “go.” Maybe it’s a coaching problem, maybe it’s the players. I don’t know yet. Just know it hasn’t really clicked this year.
With the holiday I wanted to keep things short this week, but there’s certainly more plays that what I highlighted that were key in the game. It’s not like I had to call in Dr. Watson to help me look for clues; all of this stuff was easy to see when I watched the tape.
I always enjoy hearing what other people noticed, so please share your thoughts. I’m learning as I go so if you’ve played or coached, feel free to add your comments. Good football discussion is pretty damn fun.
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday. Hug your loved ones and eat more than you should.
Until next time… GIVE HIM SIX!