Commence the 15-minute immediate post-game mostly incoherent, questionable-impression-filled, and over-emotional ramblings. Hold me to nothing.
Usually, the wait is eight months. This year, we had to wait 9 1/2 months for football to start. This is the first game of the season that was actually fun. Sure, we beat UAB, but that's the game the booers appeared. Northern Illinois was more like a loss. This one, though, we actually got on a roll. Got some momentum. Got dangerous on defense and got something happening on offense.
The good news. We have Crunch Berry (enthusiastic chest bump to wvvol for coining the nickname), and we have him for another year after this one. The man is simply amazing. The interception he caught was pure reflex, an instinctual securing of a deflected pass. From there, it was balance, speed, vision. In other words, Berry. When Berry gets the ball, he goes and goes and goes. 72 yards this time for a TD. That followed another interception by DeAngelo Willingham, I think, and Demetrice Morley followed Berry's pick six with one of his own on the next series. There were several other close calls after that.
More good news. A lot of the secondary's success has to be shared with the defensive line and the blitzers, who kept pressure on the QBs all night. Wes Brown, you are the man.
Still more good news. This is the third game in a row that Nick Stephens has hooked up with Denarius Moore on a deep pass. One of those won't loosen up defenses much, but proving that it can be a consistent weapon sure should.
Even still more good news. Arian Foster had a decent string of plays, but we still saw a lot of Montario Hardesty and Lennon Creer, including a drive almost entirely devoted to Creer. Yeehaw.
The bad news. Both Gerald Jones and Anthony Parker went out of the game injured. I don't have any news on them yet.
Still more bad news. Um, sorry to mention it, but Mississippi State's offense isn't very good. Only two of our touchdowns came via the offense. We got two more field goals. Twenty points. I guess that's not bad, but the real spark came from our defense.
Positive changes. Thud practices, good. Permanent captains. Good. Chavis in the booth. Good. Stephens under center. Good. Creer and Hardesty on the field, good.
Player of the game, defense. Crunch Berry. Ten tackles, one TFL, a sack, two breakups, and an interception returned 72 yards for a TD. Berry.
Player of the game, offense. The defense. Seriously. Credit them with 14 of the 34 points. If I had to go more conventional, I'd say Lennon Creer, who ran 17 times for 68 yards and one TD. Nick Stephens was 10 of 20 for 136 yards.
What's it mean for next week? Good question. The Vols seem to have found a spark. Their already-very-good defense played exceptionally well. Their offense is starting to click, and make no mistake, Mississippi State is a tough defense against which to have success. Alabama looked vulnerable today against Ole Miss. Still, don't get over-excited. Alabama's a much better team, and their near-miss today will keep them focused for their trip next week to Neyland. But I'll say something I didn't expect to be saying tonight: we might have a shot. Tennessee's win against the Bulldogs tonight staved off the apathy and gave Vol fans a reason to look forward to next week.