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Monday Musings: The Vols’ wagon is getting rickety

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK


Unfortunately, isn’t not a victory Monday. Alas we press on. Time to slip on those orange and white overalls, pull on those galoshes, and squash those random Tennessee Volunteer-related grapes of thought rolling around inside my brain.

1) I could write about a lack of “want to” and intensity, but I don’t need to. You all saw it. Running the ball and stopping the run is a large part about physicality and pure effort, and Missouri had loads more of it on Saturday.

2) Accordingly, this was very South-Carolina-2022-ish. I’ve read some questioning if this is the worst loss in the Heupel era. There’s definitely an argument for it. I would still pick the South Carolina game from last year, because that was the biggest defensive failure I’ve ever seen one of my teams have in any sporting event...not to mention what was on the line that game and how the season had gone up until that point. But still, if you picked Missouri or Florida from this year, I can’t really argue with you much.

3) The Joe Milton bandwagon just blew a tire and careened off the road. He wasn’t terrible statistically on Saturday - 22/34 267 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT - but after the Thornton touchdown, he was off. And the Tennessee offense needed him to not be, with the ground game going absolutely nowhere. He wasn’t helped by a couple of key drops. But he simply couldn’t put the team on his back and take them anywhere.

And I’m not even mad at all at Joe for the fumble on the exchange with Dylan Sampson. Mistakes like that can happen. I’m more frustrated at being this inconsistent in the passing game through 10 games. It looked like things were trending up. Now, back to the drawing board. And against the juggernaut of juggernauts, to boot. Fun...

4) That begs the question: if (and very likely when) the Vols lose to Georgia on Saturday, is it time to turn to Nico Iamaleava at QB? I think it’s very fair to say that the answer to that question should be yes. A loss to Georgia would put the Vols at 7-4 and in the full throes of a very disappointing season. There’s nothing to gain by playing Milton, especially since the Vols can smoke the Commodores without him. Getting Nico significant experience in the Vols’ last two games would be very helpful in getting him ready for the start of a hopeful 2024 season.

5) Dont’e Thornton is out through the rest of the regular season, per Heupel today. That’s unfortunate, as he was able to give UT some real juice on the outside in the Vols’ last two SEC games. He had gains of 47 against Kentucky and 46 against Missouri. Now, someone else is going to have to step up.

6) Brock Bowers is going to play, as he somewhat surprisingly played against Ole Miss on Saturday. The Georgia offense just added another dimension that Vol fans a month ago hoped wouldn’t be there when the teams squared off. It’s going to be hard enough to stop Georgia’s ground game with a defense that just got shellacked by Missouri’s Cory Schrader last week for 321 scrimmage yards. Now it’s going to be even tougher.

And yes, I’m resigning myself to the fate that’s coming. It’s less painful that way.