Not too shabby, Tennessee. Not too shabby. In what certainly felt like a “must-win” game, Tennessee came out and took care of business against a divisional opponent. Was it a perfect game? Not by any means. Are there areas to improve? For sure. Is a 21 point victory a solid performance that inspires hope and confidence that this Tennessee team could still make a splash in conference play? Abso-f***ing-lutely. Run game was solid. Offensive line looked better. Get well soon Bru McCoy. Here are five key takeaways from Tennessee’s win over the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Tennessee’s Pass Rush Was Awesome
Coming into this game, one of the matchups many analysts and fans had highlighted was Tennessee’s defensive front seven versus South Carolina’s offensive line — with Tennessee leading the SEC in sacks and South Carolina allowing more sacks than any SEC team. It went exactly how one would expect — Tennessee’s front seven absolutely dominated. From the first series to the last, Spencer Rattler was running for his life, and while he admittedly made some great plays with his legs, Tennessee’s pass rush was ultimately just too much for the Gamecocks to handle. Tennessee finished the game was six sacks total, and they were able to generate pressure in multiple ways — blitzing, rushing four, pressure from the edge, pressure from the interior. All of it. Just very solid play.
Cooper Mays Is Very Good at Football
Tennessee’s offense has had its issues through the first four games of the season, none of which more glaring than the offensive line. Allowing pressures, too many penalties, etc. Cooper Mays changed all of that and then some. Forget just the statistics and how much cleaner the pocket was for Milton tonight. Cooper Mays is a leader when he’s on the field. The offensive line looked more cohesive, they looked more prepared, and they simply played better with his veteran presence. Excited to see this group continue to improve as the season continues.
Running Backs Continue to Shine
I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s no secret that Tennessee’s offense is at it’s best when they get their running backs going early, and tonight was just the latest example. I could go in-depth about what makes the running backs good, why this offense needs to run more zone running schemes or whatever. But instead I’m just going to write the following:
- Jaylen Wright: 16 carries, 123 yards, 7.7 yards per carry, one touchdown
- Jabari Small: 11 carries, 59 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, one touchdown
- Dylan Sampson: 9 carries, 49 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, one touchdown
Well done boys.
A Mediocre Passing Attack Lost a Big Weapon
It’d be impossible not to mention key moments or takeaways from this game without mentioning the significance of Bru McCoy’s injury. First and foremost, I speak for everyone at RTT when I say I wish nothing but a healthy, and speedy recovery for Bru. But from an impact standpoint, his injury is going to hurt an already struggling passing attack. Aside from him being one of the better receivers at getting separation, Bru McCoy was Tennessee’s best blocking receiver. And frankly it’s not close. In an offense that has really only found consistent passing success through bubble screens, missing an impact blocker like McCoy is going to hurt. We saw some flashes of it tonight, but they’ll need Squirrel White to really step up.
Home Field Advantage is Finally a Thing Again
It’s time to for national media to start talking about how hard it is to win in Neyland stadium. This marks 12 wins in a row, the last 10 by an average of 30 points (30.2 to be exact). The atmosphere tonight was electric, it’s clear that this team feeds off of it. Credit to the coaching staff for making this a great place to play again, and credit to the fans for making it an incredible atmosphere.