— “Never going to apologize for a victory,” Butch Jones told SEC Network after the game. “That’s a very good football team that we played and I’m hoping that this will compel us to grow up a little bit as we continue to move forward.”
Yeah, that’s the kind of thing a coach tends to say after his three-touchdown favored team ekes out a win in overtime against a mid-major opponent.
It didn’t get any better over the next three hours, either. I doubt Greg Sankey’s gonna be doing much chirping about the SEC today.
I watched some of both games. Here are a few of my observations.
South Carolina 13 Vanderbilt 10. Okay, it wasn’t quite the 3-2 shitfest I was half-expecting, but it was close. The two teams combined for less than 600 yards total offense and it wasn’t because the defenses were all that dominant. Vanderbilt is trying to run Stanford’s smash mouth offense without a dominant offensive line. That’s a bad combination. South Carolina’s most dynamic player on offense is an undersized true freshman quarterback who is going to have a tough time surviving the season. I’d call them the two worst offenses in the conference, except I haven’t seen Missouri play yet, so I have to withhold judgment.
It occurs to me that I gave the ‘Cocks short shrift in one area in my preseason predictions, that being special teams. South Carolina’s pretty good there. The punting game controlled field position well after Vanderbilt’s second (and last) score and Boom called on Fry to kick a 55-yard field goal for the winner, which, fortunately for the viewing audience, he nailed. If he hadn’t, given the way the two offenses played, they might still be in overtime this morning.
Speaking of overtime…
Tennessee 20 Appalachian State 13 (OT). Sure, the Vols embarrassed themselves last night. But they escaped with the win and if they win the next few, nobody is going to remember or care in a month. That being said, if I’m a Tennessee fan, there are three things to take away from last night that are going to leave me in a state of unease.
First, it was astounding to see how poorly the offensive line played against an undersized opponent. I know the o-line wasn’t expected to be one of the team’s strengths this season, but there’s a difference between that and looking totally outclassed against an inferior opponent. Maybe it was just a bad night, but maybe they just suck. We’ll find out pretty quickly.
Second, Josh Dobbs finished the game with a passer rating of 115.3. Against Appalachian State. Based on last year’s showing, that would seem to indicate that his game hasn’t taken a step forward. Numbers aside, his play last night showed him to press when things weren’t going well, which led to him turning the ball over twice (one of which was bailed out by Hurd’s recovery of a fumble in the end zone). If Dobbs is in fact the SEC’s second-best quarterback, based on last night, we’re in for a world of hurt this year.
Third, one of the big preseason question marks about Tennessee this season was whether Jones is capable of preparing his team mentally to play championship-caliber football. Last year, his team clearly wasn’t, as it dropped several fourth-quarter leads in blown games. Teams that are mentally and emotionally ready to play show that in their opening game, even against lesser opponents. That was not the case against Appalachian State, as the Vols looked like a team that thought it could win simply by stepping on the field.
Jones can talk out of his ass today. After all, his team got the W. But if I’m playing UT, I know what I’m doing with my defensive game plan — sell out against the run and do whatever I have to do to make Dobbs beat my team with his arm. If mistakes can be avoided on the other side of the ball, I like my chances. We’ll see if Booch can tighten all the loose screws in time to handle some pretty good defenses in Tennessee’s next six games.