A long time ago when I was covering sports for a living, I worked for a newspaper that named a "hero" and a "goat" after every game.
I was confronted about the negative connotations of the word "goat" by a coach who thought it was not only disrespectful to players but also over-the-top when it came to the evaluation of college athletes. Though it was difficult to disagree completely with him, I began to think of the poor goat. What did that harmless, unassuming farm animal ever do to deserve having the biggest screw-up named after it? Was it the paper-eating? Producing vastly inferior milk? The ridiculous facial hair?
Though I've never really gotten a solid answer on that [thoughts are welcome in the comments if you can help me understand where 'goat' became the opposite of hero] the complaint stuck. So, while I don't necessarily think it's disrespectful to the player to call him a goat, for the goat's sake, I've come up with new titles for this weekly segment.
From now on, the phrases we'll use to categorize the top and bottom Tennessee performers will be "Looked the Part" and "Bless his Heart." Here in the South, we try to not talk negatively about folks, at least to their faces. When we aren't in gossip mode, we'll just answer with "bless his heart." As in, "Man, that baby is flipping UGLY!" Me, shaking my head: "Bless his heart."
You get the picture ...
So, instead of criticizing a certain Vol player or coach every week, we'll just kindly ask the Lord to 'bless his heart' and maybe he'll be better next week. And, with that, onto this week's recipients:
Looked the Part: TYLER BRAY
The Vols' sophomore quarterback hopefully will be in the running to receive this award most weeks, but he gets the nod narrowly over Justin Hunter, Da'Rick Rogers, Daryl Vereen and Art Evans. I'm not giving him this solely because of his stout numbers [17-of-24 for 293 yards and three touchdowns] but really the way he went about getting them. Bray made several "resume plays," i.e. NFL throws, and seemed in complete command the entire night. Really, he should have been 19-of-24 with a lot more yards, but Rogers and Hunter each had a drop that would have gone for big gains. Bray did throw two penalty-negated interceptions, but you can't really blame him for picks that were erased because of penalties that directly affected the plays. I only saw one time where Bray took a sack when he needed to hit his safety valve instead of hanging onto the ball to get the deep play. It was a solid A game for him.
Bless His Heart: TAUREN POOLE
This really goes to everybody associated with the running game, and I'm not squarely putting this on Poole's shoulders. But he is a senior who admitted to looking slow out there, and he didn't have anywhere near his best game finding holes and bursting through them. The offensive line was awful at times, but Poole missed holes on at least three occasions in the first half that could have padded his numbers to include at least about 25-40 yards and made our final rushing totals a little more respectable. In the re-watch, I noticed that Alex Bullard and Dallas Thomas were consistently mediocre-to-bad, but when there are three certain big-gainers left on the field, the senior runner deserves a considerable portion of the blame. Alas, I leaned toward Poole. He needs to have a better game if we're going to beat Cincinnati. Poole finished with a respectable 98 yards on 24 carries, but he sputtered around with just 70 on 23 of those.