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Facing their biggest test, the Tennessee offensive line was a massive letdown against Georgia

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Tennessee v Georgia Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images


I spend a lot of time writing words on the internet, so I like to know what to say and how to say it. It’s kinda my job or whatever, ya know? And then sometimes I’m left mentally drifting, in a wasteland of awkward ambiguity where I don’t know what it is exactly I want to say and am nowhere close to knowing how to say it. It’s like a haze, or something.

The stasis eventually passes, and I’ll get out whatever thoughts or words that, decided I wanted to put out.

Admittedly, I stopped paying attention to the game sometime in the third quarter. Instead, I chose to pay less-than-even-lackadaisical attention to the TV and more time bitching and moaning on Twitter. I was extremely #MadOnline last night and said lots of vulgar words that I shouldn’t have. So, if that offends anybody, I’m sorry. But it was an emotional night.

And really, even when things go poorly, that’s one of the wonderful things about sports. At least for me, it’s just as much about the emotional attachment I have to this team through the relationship with my dad as it is about me enjoying the sport. And that’s cool.

WHAT’S NOT COOL: the game. There were so many bad plays, poor performances, shitty decisions, etc, etc, etc, that where does one even begin? The usual jumping off point for football fans is the QB. That’s not totally unfair — QBs are without a doubt the most important position players on the field. They’re the only guys who touch the ball every play (well, besides the center), and they’re really responsible for most decisions once the play goes live. But football is a team sport. It’s like any machine or organization or business or whatever; it takes all the different elements working in cohesion. But for Tennessee, as a team, all the elements seemed out of sorts for what seemed like the entire game.

The Offensive Line and Penalties

Tennessee took a four-point halftime lead against a top-five team, and lost the game by 23 points allowing 27 unanswered points to Georgia in the game’s final two quarters. It sucks, especially getting blown out by a conference rival in a game where most people felt like it should have at least a close game, even if Tennessee didn’t have the horses to pull out a win in the end.

That sort of emotion leads to reactions not based in logic or reason, but anger and frustration instead. I get that, but we should all take a step back. It’s not Jarrett’s fault; it’s not the offensive line’s fault; it’s not the running back’s fault; it’s not the defense’s fault. This, like all losses, was a team loss.

Tennessee was given a gift on the second play of the game when a snap sailed over GA QB Stetson Bennet’s head and into the end zone and then wiggling around enough for Kivon Bennett to snatch it up in the end zone.

Offensively, Tennessee was entirely ineffective on offense until their final two drives of the half, which both resulted in Guarantano-to-Palmer STRIKES for touchdowns. Notably, the offensive committed zero penalties on those two TD-scoring Drives (to be fair, one of those drives was just a single play), but committed two false starts and a hold on the three other drives that resulted in punts. Note: Two of those penalties came on the Vols’ second drive of the game, when the Vols were driving down field. Ty Chandler had converted a 4th-and-1 at Tennessee’s own 35-yard line, and then Georgia committed a 10-yard defensive holding penalty, giving the Vols a first down near midfield. A Cade Mays false start and Wanya Morris holding call helped stall out one of Tennessee’s best chances to put up points in the first half.

Penalties are often Death-Star like killers to drives, but the false start on this drive was especially painful. It was the result of Georgia watching the QB’s hands, and when his hands raise up to catch the snap, the entire D-line shifts. This tactic is used to induce false starts or other procedural penalties on the offense, and apparently our friend and former colleague Austin Burlage caught this on tape PRIOR to the Georgia game.

Now, here’s Austin’s explanation of when this exact situation happened in the game.

I find this pretty inexcusable on the coaching staff’s part. That’s no knock on Austin, he’s obviously really good at what he does and has a keen eye. But this isn’t a new tactic from Georgia, and for the offensive line not to be prepared seems, well, at best, minimum-wage-paying job poor.

Let me be clear — I find no issue with this on Georgia’s part. It’s a somewhat creative way to gain an edge, and a team that can gain those advantages in one or several different spots usually finds a way to regularly compete.

So, I’ve told you guys I’m not a football-understanding person. Don’t get me wrong — I know what’s going on, but the nuances and intricacies are lost on me. (I’ve been studying to be a better writer for you guys — I’m trying.)

As a function of that, I’ve decided to shell out the $30/ month to gain access to Pro Football Focus’s advanced stats.

NOTE: my cashapp is $TheNickCarner — I’m not asking for money, and I won’t embarrass myself or SB Nation by telling you what they pay me, but a generous soul kicking in a couple greenbacks wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world that’s ever happened to me 8^)

Let’s look at PFF’s grades for Tennessee’s offensive line from the Georgia game.

I’m going to list them from highest to lowest, instead of going LT, LG, C, RG, RT. I’m also going to omit the guys who didn’t play a lot of snaps, even though some of those guys received good grade-outs.

[For folks who would like to better understand their linemen grading system and what all goes into it, I’ll link you to their site so they can how the explain how it is they do what they do. Click here.]

  • Brandon Kennedy81.8 pass block, 50.6 run block — 69 snaps — center
  • Trey Smith 69.9 pass block, 69.9 run block — 68 snaps — left guard
  • Darnell Wright 52.7 pass block, 51 run block — 67 snaps — right tackle
  • Cade Mays — 52.7 pass block, 32.9 run block — 66 snaps — right guard (1 snap at RT)
  • Wanya Morris — 39.3 pass block — 32.3 run block — 68 snaps — right tackle (1 snap at RG)

Sacks, Pressures, Hurries and Penalties (some running backs in this list — they didn’t seem to help matters much. Losing Austin Pope and Tim Jordan hurt — they were good at blocking/ blitz pickups.)

  • Cade Mays — two sacks, one hit, three hurries, six total pressures and two penalties
  • Ty Chandler — two sacks, one hit, zero hurries, three pressures
  • Eric Grayone sack, zero hits, one hurry, two pressures
  • Darnell Wright — one sack, three hits, three hurries, seven pressures and two penalties
  • Wanya Morris — one sack, zero hits, three hurries, four pressures and two penalties
  • Brandon Kennedy — one sack, one hit, three hurries, five pressures and three penalties

Kinda looks like outside of Kennedy and Smith, PFF digitally set fire to the rest of the Tennessee offensive line. Having watched (most) (some) (a little) of the game, that seems fair. They were holier than a King James Bible. More holes than a wiffle ball. A volleyball net might have given the offense better protection. Might have gotten more resistance out of a line full of matadors. At least then the bullfighter woulda hit the UGA defenders in the back with a sword. (THAT’S PRETTY MUCH A JOKE... ABOUT THE SWORD. PRETTY MUCH.) IDK IDK IDK.

Full disclosure: I didn’t check to see if all these stats match up with what any other media company collected, so if there’s a discrepancy, my apologies.

The OL unit received a lot of praise prior to the year, and it was warranted. It’s full of four and five star recruits. But outside of Smith and Kennedy, they’re relatively young. So Pruitt and OL coach Will Friend’s ability to develop that talent really remains to be seen, but there’s plenty of time to find out.

They played well against USC and Missouri, with the “#TVA,” nicknamed being coined first (I think) by #VolTwitter all star @gmannVols (I believe the reference is to the line powering the Tennessee offense.) Well, they looked much more #TVAint than #TVA against Georgia.

I’m gonna wrap this up with giving credit to Georgia’s defense. I mean, they’re just really, really good. Smart, strong, fast, instinctive. There’s only so much you can do.

In another post coming up, I’ll get to Jarrett Guarantano, the offense and the running game. Then hopefully I’ll get to one about the secondary, too. Seems like they all malfunctioned against the ‘Dogs, but it’s too much to get in one post even for me, prone to throw out rambling 2,000 word pieces on multiple subjects. It’s all interconnected, but let’s disseminate and try to make more sense of it.