Watched the Tennessee replay yesterday, and nothing shocking jumped out at me. But there are a few items worth a follow-up mention:
- No doubt some of it was due to the level of opposition, but that was the best effort I’ve seen out of the defensive line this season. Sure, UT’s rushing yardage included sacks and the botched snap, but the flip side of the coin is that it also include a bunch of yards on third and long draw plays. Bottom line is that even though the Vols wanted to run the ball, Tauren Poole wasn’t a factor.
- Those of you who think the secondary is a lost cause need to go back and watch Boykin’s play on Saturday. Another name you didn’t hear much from on Saturday was Gerald Jones, who killed the Dawgs last year in Knoxville. A lot of that was due to Boykin’s coverage.
- Justin Houston should have drawn at least three holding calls – and that’s just the blatant stuff I saw. He was dominant, and now leads the conference in sacks.
- If anything, I didn’t do Aaron Murray’s game sufficient justice. One thing I know I didn’t mention was how good he’s gotten at carrying out his play fakes. He’s really becoming a nightmare to defend on roll outs because of that and because of the threat he poses running the ball.
Which leads me into an overall observation about the offense – yes, the offensive line didn’t have a dominant day run blocking. But a lot of that is due to Tennessee selling out against the run with blitzes, in much the same way as Mississippi State gambled with greater success a couple of weeks ago. The reasons it didn’t work are (1) A.J. Green’s presence (duh) drew over the top coverage from a safety and (2) Bobo got away from I-formation power football playcalling on first down.
This gets back to something I mentioned a week or so ago. We all anticipated that defenses would load up the box to stop the run and force Aaron Murray to be the player to beat them. Six games in, it’s apparent he can do that: he’s third in the conference in total offense, third in passing yards per game and fifth in passer rating. (And note that he’s the only top ten quarterback in the SEC who doesn’t have a “JR” or “SR” after his name.) But up until last Saturday, it was still a good strategy, in that coordinators were daring Mike Bobo to use Murray to beat their defenses and Bobo wasn’t taking the bait, at least not enough.
That was the difference on Saturday for the offense. The Dawgs played less in the I (at least until late in the game, when they were salting things away with the run) than they had earlier in the season. Bobo seemed more willing to throw on any down, as well. At some point, if he keeps it up, defenses will have to respect that more, which should open up the running game and make the o-line’s job easier.
One more thing about Murray you should look at is his game-by-game passer rating. Think having A.J. back makes a difference?