Opening night in the SEC East

— “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.

57 Comments

Filed under SEC Football

57 responses to “Opening night in the SEC East

  1. Athens Dog

    I couldn’t decide who to pull for. Anytime the orange loses is good. But an SEC team losing to App State? So I went to bed.

    Nothing sucks like the big orange.

    Vandy and agent boom just looked painful.

  2. JasonC

    Vols lucky that App St’s kicker missed a PAT & FG and that they recovered at least 2 of their own fumbles… one for a TD.

  3. dawgtired

    OK, the thing I noticed in the SC/Vandy game. In the first half when SC had Mcllwain as QB, it was all short passes much like Lambert last year. The Vandy D thrived because they sat on the routes fearlessly due to no down-field threat. Once Orth came in and hit some long passes it changed the effectiveness of the SC offense. I got a little chill up my spine thinking we may face some of the same type of D schemes if Lambert can’t threaten deep. I hope Chaney has that all worked out.

  4. ASEF

    It’s a best case scenario for Volunteer haters. They got the W to preserve a little conference dignity, but you still get to tell Vol fans, “You never lead App State in regulation.”

    Man, that App State kicker is going to need therapy.

    • simpl_matter

      Yeah, went to bed and woke up thinking about that poor guy. Costing your team the second biggest upset in school history is going to leave a mark.

      The SC/Vandy game was hard on the eyes, literally. I don’t know if they had the B-team cameras out there or what, but that picture quality was terrible. Maybe that’s just how the world looks at a Vandy home game…

    • The other Doug

      The kicker plus poor clock management at the end of regulation cost App State the game.

    • Yeah. I felt bad for the app state kicker when his coach inexplicably called a TO to ice him before one of his misses. Maybe they weren’t lined up right. Idk.

      Just like I think Derek Mason snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. I was just flipping between the two but early in the second half it looked like those two RBs were shredding the ‘Cocks up the middle. Then on one series he gets cute and throws a pass behind the line. It gets blown up for a loss. Vandy has to punt and the next USuC drive is the one where they finally get the TD. After that both the Cocks’ O and D finally remembered how to play.

      I do wish that I had a video of “SEC east favorite” Vowel fans acting like they just beat Bama for a natty.

      • aristoggle

        It may have looked a little like when we finally put Ga. Southern away in OT last year.

        Ugh …

        • Careful Brad

          I don’t recall a lot of celebrating after that game. Also Tennessee is not supposed to be what we were when we played that game. We made changes and that game helped bring those changes about, the Vols are supposed to be a top ten team and playing in Atlanta in December.

          • The Dawg abides

            Yep. I jumped up and cheered the 4th down OT stop, but only let out a sigh of relief when Sony scored to win the game. As people started clearing out, I was sitting there still shaking my head when a Southern fan that had been sitting beside us the whole game asked why I was acting like we lost. I told her it sure didnt feel like a win.

  5. UGA85

    I just watched some of the second half of the USC game, but I was surprised they pulled it out. They actually looked good the second half and moved the ball pretty well. I picked Vandy to win that game, as I thought USC would be the worst team in the East. As you have said, it was not exactly a banner night for our division.

  6. the other JT

    UTurd’s OLine wasn’t outclassed they were flat whipped. Whoever #55 thier center is…if thats thier best option….they are in a world of hurt. He got owned. He looked stiff and slow. I limeour chances with Trent lining up across from him.

  7. Uglydawg

    As Jason pointed out a few posts above..if Appalachian State doesn’t miss the extra point, they win. Also the mid-range FG. Dobbs looked awful running around and forcing mistakes..He took a hell of a hit on the fumble into the endzone in overtime..if State covers that, they also win…And one other little thing..At one point in the game when the ‘Billys were really struggling on offense and needed a first down in a bad way, they got a defensive delay of game call against State to move them on down the field. They were very unimpressive in every area of the game…I’m sure they will improve but it’s a good thing they didn’t open against Vandy or SC.
    Now let us pray that Georgia looks better than Tn, V and SC…please.

    • lakedawg

      Wonder how well our last coach will do having to play their third game at App State. They that good or Twnn that bad.

  8. Puffdawg

    Tennessee is nothing more than a sandlot offense with some pretty good athletes. If we are ANY good we will beat the crap out of them, just like we were doing last year when some terribly bad luck struck right before the half.

    And fuck Butch Jones for patronizing the App St team immediately after the game. Commentators called it classy. I thought it was over the top. Worry about your own team, BOOCH. App St coaches don’t need you grandstanding and parading around like the czar of football. They had their team ready. You didn’t.

  9. DawgPhan

    Dobbs didnt look that great and, I imagine, is pretty sore this morning and will be for a few days. That shot at the goalline had to sting.

  10. TMC DAWG

    After app state had the long punt return, I thought there coach did a Mark Richt. Played not to lose instead of play to win. He ran straight into the middle of the defense 3 times. Mabey he believed HS kicker could get the job done.

    • Dawgwood

      It seemed like their second half game plan was to just bleed the clock. They made no real effort to move the ball. Hell, they were on the 50 yard line with 1:15 left on the game clock and ran it down the middle. They still had a timeout left when the clock expired. Lots of coulda shoulda woulda waking up in Boone this morning.

  11. Will say it again Vols are over rated and it showed last night. They are one injury away from a 6-6 season. Thier O line is terrible and Dobbs just plain sucked. Musberger saying that they have 2 of the best RB’s in college football made me laugh out loud because we all know where the 2 best backs reside. I see a very hot seat for Booch….

  12. Bigshot

    Rats! I need UT and UGA to be good. I have to sell my tickets to that game.

  13. Scorpio Jones, III

    “Jones can talk out of his ass today.” So that’s not his normal speaking area? Jones spent time with the Appy State team after the game was over telling them how great they were. Butch Jones is a great American.

  14. Oh and Carolina and Muschump=irrelevant in the SEC they have absolutely nothing

  15. Dawgy1

    Vandy is so accustomed to losing, they just have to do it, even when they have the better team.

    If Tennessee were any luckier in that 4th quarter and OT they would be Notre Dame.

  16. Macallanlover

    Going into this season everyone, except the media and Vol fans, knew TN had three areas of concerns: the offensive line, Dobb’s ability to pass the ball downfield, and their coaching staff. They all showed up in spades last night, Appy had to work hard to not win that game. Sgt. Carter may have inherited Gus’ rabbits foot, the good bounces last night equaled the two miracles he had in the last 3 minutesof the 1st half against UGA last year.

    The good news is the OL problems seem to be real because OL’s don’t have hot and cold nights, they have issues, especially at center. I also don’t think the OC, or Bootch, is going to get a lot better over the course of the season. Dobbs is the one that can, or cannot change much. I don’t think he can become a good pocket passer or throw accurately downfield consistently, but he can be utilized more as a runner and that is where he can hurt opponents. My position hasn’t changed much, I think they lose 2-3 of that 4 game stretch starting on September 24 but still contend for the East if they don’t lose any of the other conference games. Just no solid leader in our division,hope we become “that guy” with what we see tomorrow.

  17. Walt

    I think that USC freshman receiver Edwards might be their most dynamic player.

  18. Bright Idea

    Across the board except for Kamara UT looked slow to me. Hurd didn’t break a lot of tackles either.

  19. Here’s hoping all the SEC teams that played last night play that way the first half of season as that will give me some air to breath for our Bulldawgs.

  20. tbia

    I saw that exact game in Sanford last November and it ended up being a final nail in a coffin.

  21. lawdawg15

    One additional note on UT’s performance is the lack of significant improvement on D. They were finally able to make a few key stops in the 4th quarter last night but for the majority of the game, App State held onto the ball and bled the clock at will with a largely one-dimensional offense. Final TOP was 33-26 ASU but at half ASU held the ball for 16:30 out of 24 minutes. I’d say that bodes well for offenses with a good O-line who can pound the rock.

  22. Derek

    Two ten point leads blown on the first night of football. I hope things get better Saturday. That OT TD probably made Gus say: I wish I had that kind of luck. SMH.

  23. Cojones

    We all have gotten excited about the Tenn game after they proved what we thought about them but weren’t sure about what the pundits saw that we seemed to be unaware. That proved to be “Nada” and we can continue with our reverie as to the season. But there is a time element that counts for improvement of all teams. Just hope we show up with enough at UNC to make us euphoric for our improvement past the first game.

    Any guesses as to how kindly the polls and pundits will treat Tenn next week? Preseason had them 8th or 9th while they deserve not being ranked in the top 25. Any guesses?

  24. TMC DAWG

    That ole saying, you never know what you got until you see what you got.

  25. 69Dawg

    Both Vandy and App St lost because they played not to lose. Ten points is not a spread with wjich you can run out a game. Keep attacking until the final gun sounds. Once you take your foot off the gas it is nearly impossible to get going again.

  26. Bulldog Joe

    I am much more impressed with the way Muschamp prepared his team than the way Butch did.

    Also, Derek Mason still has no idea on how to manage a clock.

  27. Turd Ferguson

    If he’s 100% in October, I expect an angry Nick Chubb to run for 200+ yards and 3 TDs against the Vols. And if our defense is even competent, the game won’t be close.