Vols Football: Steady Improvement Is Noted


The Vols football team is making steady improvement in most aspects of the game.

Tennessee disposed of Missouri yesterday in Gary Pinkel’s last home game as the Tigers head coach. It was a workman like victory. It was not spectacular at all. At points in the second half it was actually painful to watch. But winning is the most important statistic at the end of the game.

The Vols Jalen Hurd had the best night of his career. This was most impressive due to the fact that Missouri had the eighth best defense in the NCAA. Hurd ran around, through, and over Tigers all night long. He high stepped his way to his career best 151 yards on 34 carries. As usual, they were tough earned yards. Nothing comes easy for Hurd. He earns his yards.

Tennessee rushed for 248 yards on the cold, cold night. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs had 54 yards and a touchdown and speedster Alvin Kamara added 43 yards on just 7 carries. Kamara would have easily reached 100 if he had been given the ball 14-15 times. He ran extremely well.

The Vols run game was clicking. But the passing game was absolutely atrocious. I am going to write another article on the passing game, but let’s just say that it is not acceptable at the University of Tennessee. Hell, it’s not acceptable at Franklin High School.

Joshua Dobbs proved me wrong. I wrote that if Dobbs was bad throwing the ball the Vols would lose. Well Dobbs was terrible throwing last night. But the Vols did manage to win the game. So I admit I fumbled that one.

More from Butch Jones

The passing game netted 89 yards on 16 completions. That is less than 5 yards per completion. Have you ever heard of a Tennessee team averaging less than 5 yards per reception? Wide Receiver U? WRU had less than 100 yards passing on the night. I can’t even believe it as I type it.

The reason I say improvement is being made is the fact that Tennessee won this game despite of not playing as well as they can play offensively. The Vols would have lost this type of game the past 4 seasons. Although the score did not reflect the effort, the Vols dominated this game. It was never in question.

This was thanks to a stifling Volunteer defense. The most improvement the Vols have had this season has been its’ defense. The defensive line has been what I thought it would be, which is really good. The linebackers have been better than I expected, and the secondary is now starting to play with some confidence since Justin Martin came back from injury.

The Vols defense gave up only one score which was late in the fourth quarter. The Vols forced three and out after three and out on the inept Tigers. Missouri was held to under 23o total yards on the night. Quarterback Drew Lock was 13/30 for 135 yards. The Vols forced Lock to put up an 11.1 Quarterback rating on the night. They also held the Tigers to only 88 yards rushing total.

But the Vols could not get the ball in the end zone. Placekicker Aaron Medley kicked 4 field goals on the night. He missed one chip shot as well, but I’m amazed that this offensive staff continues to put a struggling Medley in bad position and bad angles on his kicks. Maybe he prefers left hash kicks as that is where they seem to put him, but the angles they put on this kid seem almost kind of ridiculous. I don’t see how he puts any through at all sometimes.

So the Vols are now 7-4 going into Vanderbilt week. They have an opportunity to finish the regular season at 8-4 which is where this team needs to be in the brick by brick rebuild of Butch Jones. They have lost two games on the season they should have won. They were better than Florida. They were better than Oklahoma. That is improvement.

But this week will not be easy. I do not believe the Vols will be able to beat Vanderbilt comfortably throwing for 80 yards like at Missouri. Statistically the Tigers have a slight edge defensively over Vandy. Missouri was eighth in the country in total defense. The Commodores are 14th in the country. But the Commodore offense is slightly better than Missouri.

Add to that it is a rivalry game. The Commodores are 4-7 now. Technically you can be asked to a bowl at 5 wins. Just heard of this earlier in the week. So they do have something to play for. The Vols should want to blow this team out. Not just win. Win big.

The Vols are getting better. That is a fact. But they are no where near where they need to be. That is directly because of this inept passing game. If they can clean this up, they can be a special team. But for now we will just have to settle for the fact they are better than they were last year. “Special” will come when we can throw and catch. Everything else is seemingly in place.