Vols Just Can’t Get Out Of Their Own Way


The Vols Toughest Opponent This 2015 Season Has Been Themselves.

Tennessee lost another close game today in Tuscaloosa to Alabama 19-14. The Vols are now 3-4 on the season. Their 4 losses have come by a total of 17 points.

I won’t say Tennessee outplayed Alabama like they did Oklahoma and Florida. That would not be accurate. They did outplay Alabama in several aspects of the game however. The defensive line of Tennessee played about as well as they could today.

I listed as a key to the game earlier yesterday that the Vols would need to make Derrick Henry’s day a “quiet 150 yards”. They did just that. They gang tackled Henry pretty well. You know Henry is going to get his yards. His offensive line is extremely good, and on many carries he never even gets hit.

Well he did get hit today. The Vols made it a tough on Henry, but he still had 140 yards and two touchdowns. The last one was the difference maker as he sliced through a worn out Tennessee defense with less than 3 minutes in the game. Henry is a big time back. Give him credit.

The Tennessee defensive line had a good day. They showed they can play with anyone in the country. Derek Barnett had his best game of the season. He picked up his third sack of the season and had Alabama quarterback Coker running for his life a few other times. Owen Williams was tough inside as was Kendal Vickers and Kahlil McKenzie, Jr.

Cory Vereen had two of the Vols five sacks on the day. He played extremely well. I thought LaTroy Lewis and Dimarya Mixon had good games as well. The line put constant pressure on the Bama quarterback with just four down lineman. It was the best Tennessee pass rush of the season.

The secondary just could not keep up. Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley made play after play over Cam Sutton or Justin Martin. Martin did at least compete. I think the Vols may have a corner they can rely somewhat on in Martin. Sutton is beginning to get exposed.

What was more disappointing to me than Sutton’s coverage today was his unwillingness to tackle. He purposely avoided contact on a few opportunities in this game. At least Martin tried to put his head in on a few tackles. Brian Randolph had a decent game in run support, and had a very well timed interception. The Vols could not capitalize on the turnover however. Todd Kelly, Jr. played a good game as well, but could not get the turnover he is capable of producing. He never came close.

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Offensively the Vols played fairly well. Alabama did a great job of bottling Joshua Dobbs up after Tennessee’s first scoring drive. Dobbs only had 19 yards rushing. Running back Jalen Hurd added 92 tough yards rushing. I personally would not trade Jalen Hurd for Derrick Henry. I think Hurd is Henry’s equal, and maybe even better since he catches the ball out of the backfield.

The Vols passing game was adequate, but still painful to watch at times. I was proud to see Josh Malone make some tough catches, and Alvin Kamara was dynamite catching a few swing passes in the flat. Josh Smith continues to make plays, and scored another touchdown today.

However, Tennessee just keeps getting in their own way in these tight games. Placekicker Aaron Medley missed three field goals  (four if you count the 51 yard field goal he missed twice before the half). His first miss was from 43 yards on the left hash after a Vol drive was stopped. It wasn’t close. Wide right.

The second one he missed twice. At least the first one drew goal post as it bounced off the left upright as Saban called timeout. The next one was further left than Hillary Clinton or Barney Frank. The last attempt of the day was again pushed to the right. It wasn’t in the vicinity.  In my article about how Tennessee could beat Alabama I mentioned placekicking and that all kicks would have to be made. If they were made, the Vols win this one. Simple as that. But 51 yard field goals are not easy to make by any stretch of the imagination.

The Vols seemed to go away from an offense that was working in the second half. The Vols were successful throwing to the backs in the flat. Tennessee went away from this. They continued to run Von Pearson across the backfield (which takes him out of a receiving pattern) and never one time gave him the ball. Offensively that is playing 10 on 11. Pearson is totally out of the play time and time again. I realize they are using misdirection to cause confusion, but if you do not give him the ball, a pee wee football coach figures that one out.

The Vols tried to go downfield some. Dobbs just never pulled the trigger. He was again slow at making decisions, and on a few occasions took some ill advised sacks. None more damaging than the last play of the game for Tennessee. But Dobbs played well enough to win. He extended some plays when he was trying to throw downfield with his legs to pick up first downs.

The difference in the game (other than missed field goals) continues to be the fact that Dobbs will not throw to his receivers in one on one situations. Alabama made play after play as Coker just threw the ball close to his receivers, and they used their athletic ability to jump over Cam Sutton or Justin Martin and make the play. Dobbs has to do this.

Of course, the Alabama defensive backs are not taught to defend from their knees like Vol defensive backs seem to be coached. Tennessee defenders always seem to have their back to the ball, and are usually falling down around the ankles of the receiver they are trying to cover. Not sure who teaches this technique, but it is definitely used a lot by Vol defensive backs. If the pass is ever thrown at the receivers feet we should be in great position to defend.

And again Tennessee had the chance to win the game with the two minute drill. But it is just not meant to be. This is another area where Tennessee is just not there yet. They do not look ready, or that they even have a plan in the two minute drill.

The most important play in the two minute offense is the first play of the possession. It is imperative to gain yardage on this play, and most two minute drills are designed around this particular start. The Vols with just over two minutes left in the game used a dive up the middle given to Jalen Hurd. It of course had no chance, and put the Vols behind in down and distance.

The Vols were now in a must pass situation. The Tide players smelled it like most Alabama fans can smell a fried doughnut and a twelve pack of Meisterbrau. They were all over it. Dobbs gets hit holding the ball too long “again” as a Bama defensive end is in all out pass rush mode. A fumble of course ensues as does disappointment in Tennessee.

The two minute drill never had a chance. Poorly conceived. Poorly executed.

But all in all a good effort for Tennessee. They are so close to being a really good football team. They are in fact a good football team. They just need to be a little smarter, and a little better prepared to win.

The Tennessee Vols football time is coming. It will be here soon, but not soon enough for most of us. I want to see Tennessee win out with the rest of their schedule. They are better than all of these teams. They should win, and they should use these games to learn how to win.

They should try and use the two minute drill at some point in these games even if they are ahead. They must learn this in a game, and not at practice. That has not worked. It is painfully obvious.

The Vols have overcome a lot in Butch Jones three years here. Most of all they have overcome the recruiting deficiencies of  Derek Dooley and Lane Kiffin. Butch now has Tennessee playing toe to toe with the best in the league from a talent standpoint. The offensive line is still an area of concern, but the talent is getting better.

They are now as good as most of the teams they play. The staff and players just need to learn that they can be their own worst enemy at times. Each play and each minute in a football game (and season) is precious. The Vols have too many plays right now where they stop themselves without any help from the opposition. They will overcome this too, but they can not get it fixed fast enough for most of us.

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