When you don't have any team speed, and you don't have any depth, you get crushed by teams like Oregon. And true to form this afternoon in Eugene, Tennessee got crushed by Oregon, as the Ducks rode 687 yards of offense to a 59-14 win.
The Vols actually started about as well as could've been expected. They forced Oregon to a three-and-out and two FG attempts on the first three drives. Ducks QB Marcus Mariota was just 2/7 for 16 yards. Despite a fumble on their first drive, the Vols were able to drive the field on their second possession and take an early 7-0 lead on Oregon.
But it was all downhill from there. Oregon scored touchdowns on their next eight drives, including the last five of the first half. Tennessee tried to focus on stopping the run, and the Ducks killed them through the air--after starting 2/7, Mariota threw for 362 yards in the first half--and 456 before being pulled in the third quarter--and he accounted for four of the five first-half touchdowns for Oregon. Tennessee consistently left gaps in the middle of the field, and Oregon consistently exploited them, with backup tight end John Mundt netting 121 yards and two touchdowns on just five catches.
The Vols weren't giving Oregon short fields--consistently choosing to punt instead of going for fourth down conversions--but the defense was unable to slow down the Ducks offense. On each the last four drives of the first half, the Ducks went 78+ yards in under two minutes.
It's hard to say how much of this is Tennessee being bad and how much is Oregon just being very good. Tennessee didn't look like they quit on the game--they just looked overmatched in both speed and depth. The Vols play a more manageable opponent next week in Gainesville, but that's only compared to this week's game against an Oregon team that looks more talented than the national title game participant in 2010. Tennessee won't face a comparably talented opponent until November, so there will be plenty more opportunities to see how the Vols deal with faster and deeper opponents.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of the game was backup defensive tackle Trevarris Saulsberry being carried off the field late in the first half. Coupled with the suspension of Maurice Couch, this leaves a gaping hole in an already thin defensive tackle position. We will await updates there, and will keep you posted.
Today was not the Vols' day. We'll be back next Saturday, when hopefully it will. Go Vols.