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Tennessee Vols Trending Report: Week Five (Florida)

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Lots of things were trending down this week. The Trending Report hopes that in November, this will be a blip on an overall positive trajectory.

Joe Robbins

The Trending Report did not have a lot of fun at Neyland this weekend and sincerely hopes that this is the most negative it will be all season. Not much is trending up, and a lot is trending down, and hopefully both of those are temporary. But whether temporary or not, it's time to sort it all out.

TRENDING UP:

  • Pass defense. Florida gained 76 yards on 27 passes. That's 2.8 yards per attempt. They also threw for no touchdowns and three interceptions. Yes, their quarterback was bad, but that's a really good performance from the pass defense no matter who you're playing against. I'm not sure whether Cam Sutton was the best player on the team back in August, but he is right now, and I'm not sure it's even close.
  • Look at recruiting! Much of this season has seen on-field progress from the Vols--things that the Tennessee faithful could point to and say "this is the evidence that we're on our way back to competing for championships." There wasn't much of that on the field this week, but there are still good things happening off the field. The list of unofficial visitors for the Florida game was tremendous and included some of the very best of a very good class of Tennessee commits. There were also some major uncommitted prospects in attendance, and they saw a packed house of rabid fans. Even on an off week for the on-field product, there is still off-field reason to believe that things are getting better.
TRENDING DOWN:
  • The offense. And everyone who has anything to do with the offense. From the third-string left tackle to the head coach and everybody in between. The offense had an abysmal week. Justin Worley averaged just 5.3 yards per attempt and turned the ball over three times. The offensive line got no push in the run game and might've been worse in pass protection, allowing six sacks for a loss of 49 yards. The final rushing stats (which in college include sacks) saw the Vols with under a yard per carry. The line was a known weakness, but the coaches schemed around it for 32 points against Georgia and managed just 9 against Florida. It's hard to say at this point how much is coaching and how much is lack of talent or lack of experience (remember how bad the defensive coaches looked last year when they had no speed to work with?), but it's no secret that there is a problem. And hard as the question may be, "talent or coaching?" is one of the questions Butch Jones is paid to answer, and he must find the answer--whether it be through recruiting, development, coaching changes, or multiple of the above--if Tennessee is to take a major step forward.
  • The red zone. The offense made four trips to the red zone. They scored 9 points. Three points per trip would've won the game for Tennessee. They got 2.25. Will has written in much more detail about the failures of the offense here, but the trending report would be incomplete without mentioning it again. This was a massive failure on the part of the Vols' offense. And in this area, the defense wasn't any better. There's really no way to blame the final result on the defense, because they played an excellent game on the whole, but they allowed Florida seven points per trip in the red zone. Good for them only allowing one trip, but forcing a field goal on that one trip would've won the game even despite the disaster on offense.
  • Discipline. One of the least penalized teams in the country committed seven penalties in the first half. The offense turned the ball over three times, none of the three coming when the Vols were behind the chains. Tennessee has done well this year of avoiding mental mistakes, but mistakes abounded on Saturday, and that's how you lose to a struggling opponent.
  • Fighting through adversity. Against Georgia, Tennessee fell behind by double-digits three times in a hostile environment against what is probably the best team in the SEC East. They fought back every time. This week, Tennessee had a capacity stadium on their side and were playing an opponent that couldn't score. And yet when a little bit of adversity came, the Vols succumbed. They've shown the ability to punch back before, and they didn't even need to punch back Saturday. They just needed to hold steady after giving up a fumble in their own territory. But they neither held steady nor punched back. A defense that had allowed 0 points in three quarters allowed 10 points in one quarter. And an offense that needed just three more points to win got nothing.
  • Bowl hopes. If Tennessee had beaten Florida, they had to feel very good about their chances of making their first bowl since 2010. After the loss, Ole Miss and Alabama are the next FBS opponents on the docket. If the Vols can't pull an upset against that pair of top ten opponents, they will need three wins in November against South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt. That's not an impossible task, but it's not an easy one either.
HOLDING STEADY:
  • Butch Jones doing stupid things with timeouts. "Hey coach, you want the ball back with ten seconds on the clock and two plays to pull a miracle?" "Nah, go ahead and run out the clock, we're done." With 43 seconds left in the game, after second down, Florida committed a penalty. The clock stopped. When the referees gave the signal to run the clock again, there were 25 seconds on the play clock, and Jones called his last timeout. Florida ran out the clock and ended the game on third down. Had Jones saved his timeout, the Gators would've had to run the third down play with 18 or more seconds remaining, and Tennessee would've had one timeout. Florida would've been forced to punt with roughly 15 seconds remaining. That punt could've been blocked. It could've been returned. Tennessee could've connected on a Hail Mary. Tennessee could've thrown one pass to get into field goal range and trotted out Medley to make it 12-10. A lot of unlikely things could've happened. None of them did, because Butch Jones gave away 15 seconds for no reason, just like he did last week against Georgia. I remember how fun it was to laugh at the ineptitude of coaches like Mark Richt and Les Miles when it came to clock management. It's less fun when your own coach is just as inept. If Jones is serious about learning from every mistake, he needs to find somebody who understands clock management and plant that person by his side at the end of every game. And he needed to do that last week.
  • Backup quarterback PTSD. Matt Mauck. Ryan Perrilloux. Matt Roark. Tyler Murphy. Maty Mauk. Patton Robinette. Treon Harris. When the backup quarterback comes in, Tennessee finds a way to lose. Even if the backup quarterback doesn't do anything. Four of the quarterbacks on this list beat Tennessee without producing more than 14 points on offense. Yet win they did. Treon Harris threw for 17 yards on four passes and ran for 24 yards on four carries. That's 41 yards in total. He did not beat Tennessee. Yet when he came in, Tennessee lost.