Tennessee got a back-alley, brass-knuckled butt kicking last Saturday against Kentucky.
I mean, UT took a Mike Tyson-esque left hook in the third quarter when Kentucky scored 10 unanswered points capped off by kicker Matt Ruffalo’s (The Hulk’s cousin...?) field goal that made Tennessee’s deficit 20 points going into the game’s final quarter.
Then in the fourth quarter, just for fun probably, Kentucky kicked the hapless, lifeless, hopeless Vols while they were down with a seven-play, 54-yard drive in which each and every one of those 54 yards came on the ground.
Tennessee was the lone guy at the bar, who was WAY over-inebriated, that instigated a fight with not just one or two, but an entire group of less-drunk guys. He ended up on the ground, motionless, leaking his liquid DNA on the pavement.
I don’t ever pretend to have any inside information, and I don’t know the details of what happened, but it seems like former DL coach Jimmy Brumbaugh fell on a very oddly-timed sword thanks — at least in part — to the Wildcats whoopin’. The last drive of the game didn’t help Pruitt’s mood or Brumbaugh’s case for retainment, but firing a coach four games into a two-year deal is, well, atypical.
The game and the firing — the whole aesthetic is bad. Like, the “Game of Thrones” last season bad, or the “Star Wars” prequels bad.
But let’s pivot and see if any Tennessee players played well, according Pro Football Focus’ advanced numbers that will be inherently less stupid if they reflect positively on the Vols.
- RT Darnell Wright received the highest overall offensive score (of any player who got more than 10 snaps) , a 74.4. He graded out lower in pass blocking with a 65.0 rating.
- LG Trey Smith was second with an overall 72.8 rating but notched a 79.6 pass blocking number.
- Freshman RG Javontez Spraggins, in just 25 snaps, got a 72.7 overall mark and a 78.5 pass-blocking grade.
- RG Cade Mays played 68 snaps — tied for the team high with Trey Smith — and received a 75 offensive mark and a 76.5 pass blocking grade.
Those numbers are pretty good, and they definitely don’t take any of the hell-fire like heat off QBs Jarrett Guarantano and JT Shrout. Tennessee’s two QBs somehow managed to throw interceptions on four consecutive first-half drives. That seems nearly mathematically impossible.
Eric Gray doubled Ty Chandler in carries — 24/12 — and gobbled up 128 yards for a 5.3 yards-per-carry average. He graded out highest of the RBs at 71. He accounted for seven first downs (more than 1⁄3 of Tennessee’s total times moving the chains), three plays of 10-or-more yards and made a defender miss the tackle seven times. Those are all very encouraging numbers for Tennessee’s sophomore tailback.
- CB and future NFL starter Bryce Thompson led Tennessee’s defense with an outstanding 83.7 overall defensive grade but topped that number with a 87.7 grade in pass coverage.
- DL Aubrey Solomon was the Vols’ best run stopper in the front seven with a 71.4 grade, but he played just 21 total snaps.
- Safety Trevon Flowers posted the best rushing defense grade on the team at 74.2 on 32 running plays in which he was involved.
- LB Quavaris Crouch’s best grade was in coverage, at 73.8 (third highest coverage rating on the team), and he tied for the team lead in tackles with six but also led the team with three missed tackles.
- Stud MLB Hank T didn’t have his best game and actually had one of the worst defensive ratings on the team at 45.6.
ENDS... AND ODDS
- Defensive end and pass-rushing specialist Deandre Johnson was limited since Kentucky only attempted 15-ish passes. Still, he managed three tackles on just 32 snaps.
- Freshman corner Key Lawrence and graded in the sixties (decent) in overall defensive performance, coverage rating and defense against the run.
- Sophomore Warren Burrell, a sophomore corner back fans were excited about when the Vols signed him, played just 10 snaps and got a poor 48.8 overall defensive grade. For what it’s worth, PFF has him listed as a strong safety. I have no idea what that means — just throwing it out there.
- Tamarion McDonald, part of Tennessee’s trio of freshmen Memphis linebackers, is listed as a free safety by PFF and got 12 snaps, two tackles and a 77.4 tackling grade.