We warned you in advance that we would learn nothing from the Austin Peay game. But we're giving you a trending report anyways. Just one with a very short preamble. Let's get to it.
- Energy. This is really the biggest thing we can take from week one. Butch Jones has brought the energy back to Tennessee, both to the team and to the fans. I've never seen the UC this crowded before a game, and I've only had this much trouble finding parking once--before the Florida game last year. The crowd died down a bit in the second half when the game did, but it got loud in the first half. Against Austin Peay. And the team? The warmups showed more energy than I've seen in four years at least. At the end when the players were all jogging around in two big concentric circles, then the music changed and they all raced to the center and started jumping around? Yeah, that's new. It looked like they were having fun and not just slogging through their jobs. At the end of the first quarter, Justin Worley sprinted down the field and gave a flying chest bump to A.J. Johnson. The energy from last season to this season is like night and day.
- Discipline. I was hoping to write about mistake-free football, but Malik Foreman blew a coverage pretty badly, and Alden Hill fumbled. But Tennessee was not flagged once in 60 minutes. I don't care who you're playing against, that's impressive. And after the discipline issues of the last few years, it was a breath of fresh air.
- Daniel Hood. I know I said you can't take anything from this game, and this is probably hypocritical, but I wasn't sure why Hood was starting, and he was able to bat two balls at the line of scrimmage in the first half, one of which he came down with for an interception, and he snuffed out a screen that fooled the rest of the D. Solid start for the man in the middle.
- The video folks at Tennessee. They had pieces of Inky Johnson's speech set to music and put up on the JumboTron, last week they put up an awesome 40-minute documentary on fall practice, and there was no slow song to ruin the mood in the middle of the action.
- Some guy named Troy. It was obviously hard Saturday night for one guy to play against an entire team, which just reinforces how impressive it was last year when one guy played Tennessee within seven points. Perhaps Troy is a living guy and Austin Peay is a dead guy. It's hard for a dead guy to play football against eleven living guys at once, so that might make the difference.
- Realism. Austin Peay is quite likely the worst team to ever take the field against the Vols in Neyland Stadium. It feels great to have a 42-0 lead at halftime of any game, and I'm not going to tell you not to be happy about a win, but if you start trying to use Saturday's game to determine which players are going to make a difference in SEC play, you're going to be disappointed. Quality of competition matters, and we won't have a real gauge until the Western Kentucky game.
- The second-team offense. Last year Austin Peay lost by 50 points to a fellow FCS team. They went 1-7 in their (FCS) conference. They are a very bad football team, and the second-string at a place like Tennessee should've had their way with the Govs' starters. Instead, they created zero points. (Yes, the Vols scored three with the second-team offense in. Those points were created by the first-team specialists. The drive included just eight yards of offense). Nathan Peterman looked terrible, as did Tom Smith and Alden Hill. But the most frightening thing was the offensive line. Tennessee has freshmen at the skill positions, and they'll get better. But the Vols will be relying on this year's juniors in take over in the trenches in 2014 (or if someone gets hurt in 2013), and their inability to dominate against Austin Peay isn't a good sign. I will except Deanthonie Summerhill from this downward trend. The walk-on runner looked better than either the 3rd or 4th string backs.
- The goal-line package. Yes, Tennessee scored a touchdown on every drive in the first half, but on the final drive, the Vols ran the ball four times inside the ten and averaged -0.25 yards per carry. Yes, Austin Peay knew they were going to run, but the Tennessee offensive line is supposed to be the backbone of the team, and they're going to have to be able to generate push when the other team knows a run is coming. They did that for most of the first-half (in which the two primary backs averaged 8.1 yards per carry), but the last drive--while admittedly a very small sample--was a bit concerning, given the level of competition.
- The wave. "Hey everybody, you know what would be a great idea? Everybody stand up, wave their hands, and cheer right after the other team records their second-biggest play of the evening! Sounds awesome, right?" No. Die.
- Justin Worley. Eight yards per attempt, three touchdowns, and no interceptions are fine stats, and nobody is going to watch Saturday's game and say that Worley should lose his job over it. But he also didn't make anyone very comfortable. Austin Peay is the sort of game where you can't prove yourself to be good, you can only prove yourself to be bad. Worley, unlike the second team, didn't prove himself to be bad. But all the questions about his ability to play in the SEC remain unanswered. His arm strength is questionable, as is his decision-making under pressure (of which there was blessedly little). The first touchdown pass he threw could've easily been intercepted by a faster defense. Your thoughts about Worley after one game, whatever they may be, are almost certainly the same as they were after fall practice, and how long he keeps his job will continue to be a major storyline until he either loses his job or impresses against a good defense.
- Expectations for the season. A lot of teams embarrassed themselves against FCS opponents this week. Tennessee dispatched theirs easily. A win over Austin Peay, even a blowout shutout, is no reason to think the Vols may be better than we thought. But the game also didn't contain the type of struggles that make us think the Vols may be worse than we thought.