KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 29: Justin Worley #14 of the Tennessee Volunteers tries to get away from Antonio Allen #26 of the South Carolina Gamecocks at Neyland Stadium on October 29, 2011 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
I don't really know what else to say except we're running out of opportunities. I'm concerned about bowl-eligibility. I'm afraid the joke across the state may even be a better football team than Tennessee right now. And I'm not sure we really have any idea what we can do offensively to find any success right now.
It's a very frustrating situation to be in right now, and basically, the only thing we can hope to do is beat MTSU, find a way to compete against Arkansas and pray for Bray.
It's not all Derek Dooley's fault, even though there were some coaching questions Saturday night. Most of the blame can be laid on the laundry list of injured players continuing to pile up. In the 14-3 loss to South Carolina, Curt Maggitt sat, Marlin Lane was very limited and Brent Brewer got hurt. And we failed to produce anything offensively.
We are what we are right now -- and that's a really bad football team going nowhere. Somehow, we've got to find a glimmer of something for which to play. Onto the trends.
- DeAnthony Arnett. This is all you'll see from a positive standpoint offensively, but the freshman receiver showed up again with his classmate throwing him the ball. The Saginaw, Mich., native had three catches for 59 yards and was open quite a bit more. On a night when Da'Rick Rogers continued to struggle and the Vols couldn't muster much offensively, Arnett proved he's at least making strides.
- Game-Changers. We've been virtually begging our defense all season to make some game-breaking plays that can flip the momentum of a game. Prentiss Waggner did that with an interception and 54-yard return down to the Gamecocks' 2. Two plays later, Justin Worley threw an interception himself to end any hopes of a touchdown. Then, with UT needing something late in the game, Brian Randolph put his helmet on the football and forced a fumble that was recovered by the Vols. Worley threw a pick on the next play. Hey, the defense can't help it if those plays don't change games. They should have.
- Freshmen Freaks. Speaking of Randolph, in case you haven't noticed, the past three games, his and teammate A.J. Johnson's names have been at the top of the tackle sheet for the Vols. They were again against the Gamecocks, and the pair -- along with Curt Maggitt -- look to be future stars on a defense desperately needing them. Johnson was all over the field, leading UT for the third consecutive game with 12 tackles and a fumble recovery. Randolph tied for third on the team with six tackles with Brent Brewer and forced the big fumble.
- A Couple of Senior Leaders On A Team With Very Few. We get caught up in whining about not having any upperclassmen -- and rightfully so. Attrition has robbed us of juniors and seniors. But a couple of players giving their all for the Vols in their final seasons that sometimes tend to get a bit overlooked had very good games again against South Carolina. MLB Austin Johnson was second on the team with 10 tackles. He isn't fast, and he isn't flashy, but he quietly does a pretty good job in most games. Malik Jackson was an All-SEC player last year, and he is having that same type of season again. He is constantly in the backfield and finished with four tackles and a sack against the Cocks. I know it's a tough year, but we need to work hard to appreciate these two because we'll miss them.
Selling Points. Hey, I'm always thinking about recruiting. With Florence, Ala., ATH/RB Beniquez Brown onhand, what better way to say, "We need you here" than to watch our atrocious running game and show him that he can immediately come in and compete for playing time? Also, even though UT had three sacks, Denico Autry and Damien Jacobs had to see they are staring at immediate playing time on the defensive line with Jackson and Ben Martin leaving. We need all three of those visitors. And, yes, I'm reaching for positives. Also, I don't know if there were any DBs visiting Saturday, but the job we did on Alshon Jeffrey was incredible, and that was all coaching. Justin Wilcox called a great game.
- Coaching. You can read my full thoughts in yesterday's post, and I won't rehash them all again. This isn't all Dooley. I am disappointed in the running game, the play-calling, the timeout management, just a lot of things. I thought this coaching staff did a terrific job for half the game against LSU and Alabama, but I think they coached poorly against UGA and again last night. Perhaps it was just a night where a lot of gambles were taken and absolutely nothing worked. It just all felt desperate to me. Oh well, as I said, we've discussed it. Moving on.
- The Run Game. What run game? The only time we've run the ball effectively this season was when Simms was at quarterback. While I have no confidence in his ability to throw the ball downfield with any consistency, that alone is reason enough to play him. Worley didn't get us into many favorable run situations, but I'm putting very little -- if any -- of the blame on him. This is on Harry Hiestand, our offensive linemen and our backs. We had 35 rushing yards for a 1.7 average. A microcosm: The first play after the Waggner pick -- first and goal from the USC 2 -- the Gamecocks had three players in the backfield immediately and blew up a simple power for a three-yard loss. Inexcusable.
- Lower-Casing. Yeah, that's what I'm calling the opposite of "Capitalizing." Instead of doing anything to instill any confidence in his abilities, Worley immediately turned two potential game-changing turnovers created by UT's defense into crippling interceptions. As Will noted, the life came back into the stadium briefly on those two turnovers created by UT's defense, and the air went out just as quickly when Worley returned the favor.
- Da'Rick Rogers. He had a measly four catches for 35 yards, and he dropped a perfect bomb by Worley that could have changed the complexion of the game. Rogers has pouted for a month straight, refused to talk to the media, tweeted that it "isn't fun anymore", takes plays off and generally just struggles to maintain his focus when all the defensive focus is on him. He's only a sophomore, but this team needs him to lead, and he hasn't yet. Rogers needs to step it up in a big way. Maybe all he is cut out to be is a No. 2 receiver.
- Our Fans and the General Mood In the Stadium. Tickets were going for $5 a pop at kickoff, the announced attendance was a generously listed 96,000 or so, and there were only mere flashes of excitement during the two turnovers. That's pretty much it. Throw in the piped-in noise/music, the quiet sideline and general disinterest of our players throughout the game and the fact that the stadium was half-empty with 10 minutes left in the game, and I was just disgusted. I'm not going to use this space to trash our fans, but last night was a sad one at Neyland Stadium. There has to eventually be some life injected in this program. It just makes me sad. This whole season does. It blows. The end.