I am encouraged. My heart beat quickly. I laughed, I cheered, I cried. For the first time in a very long time, there were no broken chairs and no curses uttered.
It felt really good to have the ESPN analysts talking about the Vols as a surprising bright spot in the SEC East. Someone is welcome to counterpoint this to tell me how negative I am being.
I am encouraged, but I am not sold. Next week won't make it any better as we should score as much as we want to without letting them score more than a handful. We won't really know until at least Florida. How good are we?
Here we go on the nitpickin'.
- None of this really matters because Bama will beat us in a name-your-own-blowout-score special. I don't care how good Bray and CP were. Did you see Bama's OL? I honestly think Saban gets confused about which RB to put in the game because each one of them is a gamebreaker, especially the new freshman. (Saban's response to the question by the sideline babe about "running backs by committee" was priceless.) And the defense is just plain mean and nasty. I hate it but Bama beats us once - or maybe twice, if we somehow make it to the SEC Championship game.
- Passing game. Bray missed several wide open receivers on a couple of drives, Was it miscommunication, misreads? Too much beer and not enough film study or 7-on-7 work? Hunter had multiple drops, including a bomb. Hunter also failed to shield the DB to create a catch inside the 5. Hunter had a first down on a pass across the middle but cut back 5 yards and forced us to make another play on 3rd down to convert. Fall forward and get the first. CP disappeared in the second half when NC State rolled their coverage to him. Yeah, it's nitpickin' but that's what we are doing here.
- Running game. Nice reverse, CP. Lane - good job running north-south and hitting the hole with authority. Saw one RB flat run over a defender after a 7-8 yard gain. First time I'd seen that in two years. Might have spilled my soda pop in the excitement. But now for the nitpickin'. Could we maybe focus on turning a 2-3 yard run between the tackles into a 4-5 yard run by lowering our shoulder pads and hitting someone. You can't bounce every run outside. An average defense will give you zero additional yards; a good one will cause a turnover or push you back. And, let's not talk about short yardage against what we all now know is just an average defense. The OL was better, but not top tier SEC (did you see Bama's OL? Nightmares.)
- Special teams - Other than one great punt and a good KO return and two workmanlike FGs... And, the KOs were better, but how much of that is the extra five yards? Punts were only average length. Maybe I am spoiled remembering the Colquitt family? Returns need to be north-south. And the snap on the XP. Fundamentals? Sure we didn't create a foul odor that required us to clear the Georgia Dome on special teams, but we still aren't special.
- Defense - Brewer de-cleated somebody and the sack-fumble safety was awesome and so were the four picks. The LBs were stout and I now love JUCO DL. But nitpick we must. DL, please tackle consistently. Too many runners bounced off you and kept going. Secondary coverage & communication in response to the hurry up pace was awful in the first half.
- Overall. Said elsewhere but saying it here. Too many points were left on the table. Aside from the 6 stolen from us at the end of the first half by the zebras (C'mon, ESPN even slow motioned it, froze the ball over the plane of the goal line, put a big red video game target on the ball and said - "I think it is a touchdown and the call on the field should be overruled"). Aside from that, we had way too many stalled drives. Five punts, one fumble killing drive (not really) and settling for 2 FGs. Against good teams, we can't afford that many miscues because we won't get that many chances.
Yeah, we know all that nitpckin' stuff. But dang that felt good anyway.