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10 things we learned from the Florida game

Things were going great till Florida took the game in another direction.

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Okay. I don’t even know where to begin, so I guess I’ll just start from the heart. This was the first big-time game in forever-and-a-day that the Vols actually had a legitimate chance of winning. And midway through the third quarter, we were in position to do just that. Then we suffered a collapse of monumental proportions, giving up 24 unanswered points in just over 11 minutes at home before a nationally televised audience, including a Gameday crew that had been smitten with us just hours before. It was…

soul crushing.

Anyway, without further ado, 10 things we learned against that Gators:

1. The Vols are soft

In their first two victories, the Vols lacked a killer instinct as evidenced by the fact they were unable to convincingly put away (clearly outmatched) teams. Accordingly, I’ve always suspected that if and when this team got punched in the mouth, they’d fold up like a notebook.

Trey Burton’s 80-yard, game-tying touchdown scamper was the punch in the mouth.

The ensuing DEFCON ONE meltdown was the Big Orange Mead. Perforated for your convenience.

2. Body language

When things are good, Tennessee’s all high fives and butt slaps. But as soon as adversity rears its ugly head, we’re all furrowed brows and shoulder shrugs. And the poster boy for this phenomenon is Tyler Bray. That kid needs a pipin’ hot cup of grow-the-fuck-up to become the on-the-field leader this team so desperately needs him to become.

I’m not giving up on Tyler. His talent’s too rare. But unless something changes, he’ll go down as the Tony Harris of Volunteer football. A less successful version at that.

In his defense, however, the whole body-language thing does seem to trickle down from the man in the orange pants, no?

3. Florida made big plays

Trey Burton’s 80-yarder was the beginning of the ugly end. On the ensuing possession, Bray was picked off for the second time of the night. Three plays and 70 yards later, Florida was celebrating in the paint once again, this time with the lead they’d never relinquish.

Four offensive plays, 150 yards, 14 points, all in the span of three minutes. OH. And two possessions later, the Gators needed just three plays to go 78 yards for the touchdown that gave them a 14 point lead and officially made it a rout.

4. Tennessee did not make big plays

But it wasn’t just the big plays that Florida made. It was the big plays the Vols didn’t make. Justin Hunter had two huge third-down drops, both of which would have moved the chains, both of which led to Gator scores — the field goal at the end of the opening half and the 75-yard pass that put the Gators up by 14 in the fourth.

Other big plays we didn’t make: the fumble we failed to cover at the Florida two, the missed PAT (wtf, y’all? seriously…) and Cordarrelle’s drop (though that would have been a pretty damn good catch — still, one we’ve come to expect him to make) which had six written all over it.

5. Defense

We looked awful in the second half. The entire unit, but especially up front. We couldn’t hold the edge to save our lives and the Gators made us pay by rolling up over 300 yards on the ground. And although one gets the feeling that the game would have turned out differently had we been able to make some of the aforementioned big plays, the defense’s contribution to our stunning collapse cannot be overstated. They got manhandled by a team that was thought to be offensively impotent coming in.

6. Bright spot: kicking game. You know, except for the kickers.

We actually played pretty well on special teams. Their kicker kinda neutralized any return game we might have been able to muster up, but overall, we covered our kicks well and, most importantly, snuffed out a fake punt that gave the Vols a first and ten at the Gator 47 yard line, up by seven late in the third. (How did we lose this game by 17, y’all? Seriously.)

Still, the one thing holding us back in our kicking game is (get this) our kickers. Brodus missed a PAT, thus keeping the streak alive: three consecutive games with a missed PAT. Goodtimes.

7. Bright spots

Tight end Mychal Rivera continues to prove that he’s a viable possession-type receiver in the middle. Rajion Neal had decent little game, running the ball effectively and between the tackles for a change. A.J. Johnson scored a touchdown out of the wildcat package that seemed to catch Florida off guard. (The only time in the second half, incidentally, that we out coached them.) And CP had another good game, as well. It’s too bad we couldn’t find other ways to get the ball in his hands.

8. Shame on the sheep

When you think about it, before the Florida game, all the Vols had really done was (a) beat a middle-of-the-pack ACC team and (b) whoop up on an opponent whose football tenure is surpassed in duration by Justin Bieber’s entire catalog of music.

Yet, I couldn’t turn on the radio during the Florida week without hearing talk of goalposts coming down and the speculation of Bray’s imminent Heisman run. Precisely why, I might add, I quoted Mr. Wolf last week.

Look, I can’t say I wasn’t optimistic. I was. But not to the point of overconfidence as so many seemed to be. Bottom line, our entire fan base, possibly the team as well, put the cart before the horse. We went to bed with visions of a return to relevance dancing in our heads when the only thing we should have been going to bed thinking about was the team that’s kicked our candy ass seven — now eight — straight times. Six of them by double digits. (I think it’s six — too lazy to look it up.)

Again, shame on the sheep, y’all.

9. Honey Doo Doo?

You’ve heard of Honey Boo Boo right? That rotten little redneck girl from Toddlers and Tiaras with the obnoxious, morbidly obese mama? She’s got her own TV show now and the entire situation has garnered quite a bit of press.

I don’t know very much about the girl. Except, I suppose, that her mom is one of the most annoying women on the planet. Well, that and the fact that despite having missed out on the beauty chromosome entirely (along, I’m guessing, with various others), Honey Boo Boo somehow manages to win a high percentage of the beauty contests she enters.

Which means Honey Boo Boo and Coach Dooley have more in common than you might think. I mean, first, they both totally have stage moms. But, also, with Dooley’s 4-13 SEC record?

Just like the pint-sized beauty queen, he sure seems to get crowned a lot.

Honey Doo Doo

10. This week will suck

It’s true and you know it. Because the same moron who was wondering whether four passing TDs against Florida would be enough for Bray to finally receive Heisman consideration will now be calling up to ask why Worley hasn’t seen any action.

As we’ve already established, fans, by nature, lack perspective. And while it’s annoying when things are going good, it’s downright depressing when things are going bad.

So I’m just gonna stay right here in the middle. Brace for the worst, yet hope for the best and, most importantly, let the season play out before I jump to any global conclusions with regard to Dooley.

Still — two things are certain. One, he has improved our roster.

But two, there’s much, much more work to be done.

UPDATE TO ORIGINAL POST — I left this out, but I really shouldn’t have — just hadn’t heard anything definitive as of writing this — but the injury to Brian Randolph is devastating. We’re really going to miss him.


facebook comments:

  • NorthKnoxVol

    Unfortunately I was one of the sheep. I am so ready to believe that my alma mater’s football team and coaching staff, with over 100,000 enthusiastic fans in their stadium, a stone’s throw from arguably the finest athletic complex, and the energy we felt here in East Tennessee could muster up the guts to play all 4 quarters.

    Great perspective in your post which, by the way, is the only thing Vols related that has made me smile in the past couple days…

    except this: