Tennessee Volunteers are finding who they are: UT 35, UAB 3

Forever is a mountain we've yet to climb
Tears are a part of what is yet to leave behind

The volume of emotion erupting in our souls
A quiet revelation quickly takes ahold
Patience is a virtue but she won't always wait
Dissension is the tension it's what we've learned to hate

We are finding who we finding who we are
We can see forever

We Are Finding Who We Are -- King's X

Dave Clawson and the Tennessee Volunteer offense entered the UAB game "looking for their fastball," their "bread and butter," their identity. The foundation upon which the rest of the offense would be built. After a brief flirtation with infidelity to Tennessee Tradition, the Vols may have found who they are Saturday against the Blazers.


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Consider those first two touchdowns by Tennessee words of a temptress dripping with high fructose corn syrup. Or barbeque sauce. Whatever works for you. Just realize that it may look good, but the long term consequences are not really what you want.

The first drive featured a 28-yard pass play from Jonathan Crompton to Lucas Taylor and ended with a bewitching Crompton-to-Gerald-Jones 20-yard touchdown pass. The second was even more seductive, featuring a 48-yard pass play to Taylor and another 14-yard TD toss to Jones.

Ah, but the taste for such heresy to Tennessee Tradition only fuels desire for more and leads to destruction. It gives a false sense of security and efficiency. It leads to interceptions and dropped passes. It deprives a team of the opportunity to chew up both yards and clock as well as an opportunity to deprive its opponent of possession of the ball. It leads to first half numbers like 12 rushes for 56 yards and a score of 14-0 against a team with the second-to-worst defense in Division I college football, a team whose opponents, Tulsa and Florida Atlantic no less, were averaging 47 points per game against them.

Shun! Flee! Run!

Run. Did I say run? Double meaning, that.

Looking back on it, it may well be a very good thing that Luke Stocker dropped all of those passes and that Crompton threw an interception in the first half and began the second with another. Otherwise, we might have fallen to temptation and declared ourselves a passing offense. Instead, we lost confidence in our passing game just in time and reverted to the Plain James Running Game, eschewing any remaining attempts to join the ranks of the cool kids running the spread and throwing the ball everywhere. Once we finally acknowledged who we were, we scored three consecutive touchdowns and found our rhythm for the first time this season. We had to punt only once after that, and we were driving again when time ran out. We threw no more interceptions. We mostly kept the other team on its side of the field. We had running plays of 16, 31, 45, 16, 17, and 19 yards by three different backs. We had 220 yards on the ground. All of that running allowed UAB only a little over ten minutes of possession in the second half and opened up a nice pass to tight end Brandon Warren for 42 yards late in the game. And we won the game 35-3.

Numbers for the backs:

Player No Gain Loss Net TD Avg Long
Arian Foster
12
101
1
100
0
8.3
31
Lennon Creer
8
93
0
93
2
11.6
45
Tauren Poole
9
43
0
43
0
4.8
19
Montario Hardesty
7
28
0
28
1
4
9


We are a running offense, y'all. We need to run first, second, third, fourth, and fifth, and occasionally throw a pass. None of that is meant to discredit Lucas Taylor's fine performance. The man had nine catches for 132 yards. But that's dessert, and living on it is asking for sleepy, late-in-the-game glucose crashes. It's the curveball, the changeup, what you throw after you've convinced the batter the fastball's coming. Nope, our bread and butter is the running game. Here's hoping we don't forget that again this year.

The defense, which is much further down the road to self-discovery, will only benefit from the offense's progress down the same road. John Chavis' unit is playing aggressively, mixing up zone and man coverage in the secondary to maximize the opportunities for interceptions. It's leaning on Eric Berry to lead this team. It's utilizing developed depth to keep guys fresh and get them experience when possible. On Saturday, it held an offense that was converting half of its third down attempts to a mere 3 of 12. It held an offense that was gaining 448 yards and 3.5 TDs per game to 275 yards and no TDs. It's a unit that can hold its own provided the offense remembers what it is and what it does best.

So yeah. We are finding who we are. Will we remember next week against Florida? Hmm. Different question, that. Stay tuned.

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