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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Auburn Tigers Postgame Ramblings

Joel normally puts his knee-jerk postgame ramblings up, but he's got some manual labor to tend to first, so I'll get mine up now rather than later.

Things I saw:

1.  Great Defense  Auburn fans will be quick to remind us that their offense has been anemic this year.  They're right.  Still, UT's D really locked in on the Tiger offense for the entire second half.  Most of the second half was played in Auburn's end of the field, and there were several drives where a safety was a concievable possibility.  Of Auburn's 14 points, only 7 came against the defense.  Most importantly, the defense varied their schemes, removing some of that deadly predictability we saw during the UCLA game.  Give the defense credit for a stout effort..

2.  Nonexistent Passing  This is the most obvious negative, so we might as well get it out of the way.  Auburn fans will also tell you that the secondary is their defense's weakness.  UT could not exploit it.  Crompton was 8/23 and Jones was 0/1.  A couple of passes were debatably catchable, but a lot were not.  Crompton did throw the ball away a couple of times, a la Ainge, but that doesn't mitigate the bad day of passing he had.  Even the most ardent of Cromptonites must now believe a QB switch is likely.  We'll see.  Give Crompton this, though:  when he runs, he's not afraid of getting hit.  One of the 1st downs would not have happened if Crompton slid.

3.  Punting!   It was a huge relief to see a terrific punting effort in the second half.  Cunningham did a great job with those punts, overcoming a couple ducks in the first half.  Overall, the coverage unit did better, but they still have a long ways to go to properly cover their lanes and hold positions.

4.  Rushing  First things first:  that fumble-Auburn TD was not Foster's fault.  He used proper running form when receiving the handoff, and Crompton put it into his elbow.  Enough about that.  No RB fumbled this time - a significant improvement.  However, the complete absence of a passing threat meant that Auburn could tee off on the RBs, and they had no room to run in the second half.  The team went for 3.8 yards per rush - a number significantly enhanced by Jones's failed-G-Gun-runback-make-something-from-nothing play.  Foster critics will note that Hardesty got more carries (10) than Foster (8).  Is that a shift in the pecking order?  Maybe; Hardesty did a terrific job of running.  If the passing game were any threat, he might have had a huge day today.

5.  Coaching  The issue will come up, so here's my thoughts.  Coaching was mostly alright today.  The plays were sufficiently varied, and the offense was split for 24 passes and 33 rushes.  That's about as run-heavy as you want to be, or the defense won't honor the pass.  (Stop snickering.)  You can't ask Clawson to call more run plays.  Against a defense as good as Auburn's, the offense has to credibly run and pass to keep things honest.  Likewise, Chavis dialed up a great defense today.  The second half was closer to defense that UT is used to.  There is still much work to do on tackling form, but the formations were much better.  That's a huge improvement.

6.  Clock Management  You must know this about me:  Im an advocate of going for 4 downs.  Not only does it have a decent chance of success, it opens up the playbook on 2nd and 3rd to things that the defense will never consider.  Enough said about that.  The coaching staff has a ways to go to understand the clock rules and how they affect 4th quarter play.  The last punt virtually guaranteed the game for Auburn, as they could have crippled UT time-wise and timeout-wise, even if they didn't get the 1st down.  But the real problem was the prior punt.  UT had a 4th and about 3 or 4 on Auburn's 40.  One first down gives you a shot at a game winning field goal.  A punt (best case, assuming no turnovers) gives you the ball back at about your own 40 with a minute or two left.  Even with the offensive problems UT had, going for 4th presented better odds at winning the game.  That's the key.


Well, those are my immediate thoughts.  I'll sit back and ponder for a while, but what did you see?