|Photoshop hat tip to danmarcel.|
Ahhhhhhhhhhh. When Tennessee beat Memphis 50-14 last week, I tried to keep in mind that the Tigers were one of the worst teams in the nation, I really did. But the team just looked different somehow. Something seemed to be better in a way that couldn't be attributed to the opposition. And today those feelings were justified, at least to a degree, and I removed the probationary asterisk next to the Memphis win in my mind. Hey, that's what happens when your team beats an actual SEC opponent not named Vanderbilt 52-14.
That's what happens when your true freshman quarterback completes 18 of 34 passes for 323 yards, three TDs, and no interceptions while your defense forces the other guy into three interceptions, two of them pick sixes. That's what happens when your offense hits 50 points and your defense holds the opponent to 14 two weeks in a row when they were averaging 22 and 30 a mere fortnight ago. It's what happens when the stats and Vegas bookies each scream into opposite ears to expect a close game and your team blows it out by 38.
Ah, yes. The Dool-Aid tastes so sweet.
Yeah, Jeremiah Masoli maybe shouldn't have been playing. Maybe he hadn't fully recovered from the effects of the concussion he suffered last week. The poor guy had only 80 yards, no TDs, and, as mentioned above, three picks, two of which went for scores. He also ran for only 22 yards. I don't know how much of that is because of the concussion, but I do know that Tyler Bray simply outplayed him.
Speaking of Bray, should we put to rest the idea that he's somehow especially vulnerable because he's skinny for his height? The guy got slammed around -- particularly today, but also last week -- and he's holding up just fine, thank you very much. Maybe we should start calling him Bamboo. Skinny. Flexible. Strong. Makes a good life raft.
And that's not the worst of it. I have no idea where to find stats on muffed punts, but we have to be leading the nation in that dubious honor. Did we have two more today, or was it just one? I have either repressed the memory, or the Dool-Aid is dooling the senses, for which I am grateful. It got so bad that at one point, Dooley simply said, "Forget it. I'm not putting anybody back there," and just kept 11 on the line. I did see Justin Hunter back there at one point later, but that had to have been after he drew the short straw or something.
Speaking of Hunter, I must have said WOW (yes, I sometimes speak in all caps) three times on that jump ball TD in double coverage he grabbed. LEGIT. He's going to be awesome. Strike that, he's awesome right now, and even when Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore (both of whom are also awesome and had great days) graduate, then Da'Rick Rogers can end his specialty role of running jet sweeps (which I view as the equivalent of flipping tires to pay his dues) and get into the real action himself, as the weight of expectations will be on Hunter rather than Rogers.
I haven't yet looked at Kentucky's numbers, so I can't say whether this was the most difficult game left on our schedule, but I do know that we wildly surpassed expectations, and despite a horrid October, it's put me back in a much more familiar frame of mind, one that says we're going to at the very least beat Vanderbilt and that we are in good shape to extend our streak against Kentucky.
Maybe that's the Dool-Aid talking. But you know what? I don't really care. How about you?