Tennessee Game Grades Vanderbilt Edition

Tennessee Game Grades Vanderbilt Edition

Tennessee Game Grades Vanderbilt Edition

Is this the beginning of the end? Tennessee, with hopes of a Sugar Bowl berth to redeem an otherwise disappointing season, loses to in-state rival Vanderbilt. Moreover, the SEC East favorite Vols will finish 8-4 and two games behind Florida for the division lead. These are the games that change program trajectories.

Butch Jones becomes the first Tennessee coach in 68 years to lose twice to Vanderbilt. If you don’t count Neyland‘s second lose, because it was in his third different stint as head coach, you have to all the way back to M.B. Banks in 1925 (91 years) to find a coach that lost twice to Vanderbilt during his tenure at Tennessee.

Tennessee remains in the lonely wilderness of college football mediocrity.

Tennessee Game Grades Vanderbilt Edition

Offense: B-

Tennessee’s offense picked up where they left off the previous three weeks in the first half. But the Vols couldn’t keep the momentum in the second half. Tennessee, coming off 31 first half points, managed only three points in the second half. It’s a total team effort, but Tennessee should be able to win against Vanderbilt when they score 34 points. This isn’t on the offense.

Offensive Stat of the Game: Tennessee had all five second half drives in Vanderbilt territory, and scored a total of 3 points.

Quarterback: A-
Joshua Dobbs had a critical fumble late in the game. This takes away from his incredible night passing. Dobbs completed 31 of 34 passes (91.17%), threatening the NCAA single game record. Dobbs passed for 340 yards and rushed for another 53 — going over 2,000 career rushing yards.

Running Backs: B
John Kelly also had a critical fumble in the first half. While his fumble wasn’t as important as Dobbs’, it did end another Tennessee drive in Vanderbilt territory. Alvin Kamara had a huge first half, but was largely silent in the second half. Kamara ran out-of-bounds on Tennessee’s fourth down attempt to end the game. An inexplicable mental mistake, although he was likely not going to get the first down. It was much of the same — great first half and a lack of capitalizing in the second half.

Receivers: A- 
Tennessee’s receivers had another solid game. Only one drop in the game, and a quarterback doesn’t have a 91% completion rate without a great receiving effort. Josh Malone and Jauan Jennings continued their strong second half of the season. Malone, playing about 30 miles from his high school, went for seven receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown. Jason Croom and Ethan Wolf contributed a total of 11 receptions from their tight end positions.
Offensive Line: C+
The biggest difference between the two halves was Tennessee’s offensive line. The line played well in the first half, probably a B/B+ effort. However, in the second half, Vanderbilt was able to get pressure on almost every Dobbs pass and the running lanes disappeared. Drew Richmond struggled in the second half, as did — surprisingly, Jashon Robertson. Venzell Boulware had probably the best game of the entire line.

Defense: F

For the third straight game, Tennessee’s defense turned in a poor performance. The numbers are staggering. The Vols defense surrendered 45 points to Vanderbilt and gave up 608 total yards of offense.

This was very likely the greatest Vanderbilt offensive performance in the modern era of Vanderbilt football. Two 100-yard receivers. Ralph Webb with 114 yards on a bum ankle, three different running backs with a touchdown, and Kyle Shurmur with 416 passing yards. Kyle. Shurmur. 416 passing yards. That’s the third most single game passing yards in Vanderbilt history. Tennessee gave up eight plays of 20+ yards (40, 76, 20, 45, 28, 32, 39, and 28) and seven more plays between 15 and 20 yards.

This was different than the previous two weeks, when Kentucky and Missouri gashed the defense seven and nine yards at a time.

Simply unacceptable performance from the defense.

Defensive Stat of the Game:  Pick ’em: Vanderbilt: 8 plays of 20+ yards or more, or Kyle Shurmur with 416 yards of passing.
Defensive Line: F
The lone highlight from the defensive line tonight was Derek Barnett joining Reggie White as Tennessee’s all-time leader in sacks. Tennessee was able to get pressure on Shurmur at times, but it was not enough. Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig schemed well against Bob Shoop‘s defense and left Shurmur with short- and one-read passing plays.


Linebackers: F-
The linebackers were largely ineffective when asked to blitz, largely ineffective in the passing defense, and largely ineffective in the running game. Vanderbilt gained 192 yards of rushing and had three touchdown runs that were walk-ins. Vandy’s tight ends made several critical first down catches and tacked on another touchdown. Colton Jumper especially had a tough night as he was either out of place or filling the wrong gaps on many plays. As great as Jumper’s story and season have been, tonight wasn’t a good way to finish. Kenny Bynum was the best linebacker on the night.
Defensive Backs: F
Have I mentioned that Kyle Shurmur passed for 416 yards? That alone prevents any grade higher than an F. The defensive backs did as they have all season. They were good in run support and poor in pass defense. Rashaan Gaulden was a perfect example. On one drive in the first half, he drops a sure pick-6 and then makes three great tackles on the four plays in the next drive. Cam Sutton hasn’t looked the same after coming back from surgery. And Malik Foreman and Emmanuel Moseley both yielded key first down passes after going for break-ups or interceptions and not making the play. Credit Shurmur for playing out-of-his mind tonight and the receivers for making the catches.

Special Teams: B-

Tennessee had two good returns and couldn’t capitalize on either one. Aaron Medley made two of three, but his missed 37-yard field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter was really the last of Tennessee’s real hopes. Coverage teams did their jobs tonight. Noticeable was a lack of penalties on special teams, something that has plagued Tennessee all season.

Coaching: D

With a retiring Chancellor and a retiring Athletic Director, Butch Jones isn’t on the hot seat. But that doesn’t mean things are good in Knoxville.

Mike DeBord‘s play calling was a refreshing break from the normal in the first half. But the second half featured many of the things that frustrate fans. Third down passes short of the chains. Running inside the tackles with a quarterback throwing at a 91% clip. Going away from Alvin Kamara. Whatever adjustments Derek Mason made at half, DeBord couldn’t match as Tennessee managed only three points in the second half.

On defense, it was much of the same. Confusion at linebacker. Defensive backs that just can’t make enough plays. Sunday film study will not be fun.

Looking Ahead

Next Week: Not Atlanta. Where does Tennessee go from here? With hopes of a Sugar Bowl berth dashed, it’s anyone’s guess to where Tennessee lands. You’ve got to think Auburn or LSU will go to the Sugar Bowl and the other will wind up in the Citrus Bowl. That leaves Tennessee at the mercy of the league office. And with Tennessee’s stock down right now, the best bet right now would be the Belk Bowl or Music City Bowl. With a very mediocre SEC this season, it’s really anyone’s guess.

But the bigger question is where does the program go from here. A preseason Top 25 team that got into the Top 10 during the season but will finish well outside the Top 25. Back-to-back 8-4 seasons with a veteran team. There will assuredly be coaching changes in the offseason and while Butch Jones isn’t on the hot seat tonight, once a new A.D. comes aboard, things might change. It will be a anxious and tumultuous offseason, that’s for sure.

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