Tennessee’s defense had every reason to mail it in against Vanderbilt. They didn’t. Tennessee’s offense had every reason to be downtrodden. They weren’t.
The Vols took control early in a 56-0 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday despite what happened in South Carolina last week and the fact that Tennessee’s postseason hopes, particularly, the College Football Playoff were all but dashed last week.
After giving up 606 total yards to the Gamecocks last week, Tennessee’s defense set the tone against the Commodores with some big plays early.
1. Byron Young was on the spot and recorded a tackle for a loss of 12 yards when Vandy mishandled a snap. It was a gift, but Young’s play showed some hustle that the Vols were missing last week.
2. Wesley Walker registered a tackle for a loss when he deftly jumped on a jet sweep. That showed that he was ready to read the play thanks to pre-game preparation.
3. Jeremy Banks nearly had an interception when he leapt in front of a Vanderbilt pass. He was clearly ready after being at the center of a locker-room controversy last week.
The Vols ended the first quarter with a 14-0 lead and Vandy had a grand total of 33 yards. Whether it was pride or a better bowl game, Tennessee was in charge early and dominated throughout the game.
The Vols surely had fresher legs then they did a week ago. Tennessee’s offense didn’t exactly control the time of possession, but they did reel off an 11-play drive for 76 yards that took up nearly four minutes. Those kind of drives will become more commonplace in the future if Tennessee can continue to upgrade its defensive talent and grow into more well-rounded program. An explosive offense can only be made better by a more complete defense.
Vandy certainly isn’t great and were very limited at quarterback. However, the Commodores did beat Florida and Kentucky over the past two weeks so it’s not as if the Vols could just roll their helmets on the field and expect to win. There was some effort required and the Vols gave plenty.
Whether or not the Vols make the College Football Playoff – and there is still an outside chance as we pointed out here – Tennessee’s defense should be commended for the way it played against the Commodores.
The Vols gave up just 254 yards and 0 points. That’s a pretty good day at the office.
The same should be said for Tennessee’s offensive line, albeit a painful day at the office. The Vols began the game without starting left tackle Gerald Mincey and suffered a myriad of injuries throughout the game up front. At one point, center Cooper Mays seemed banged up, missed a few snaps and fought through the pain to get back on the field.
Tennessee’s offensive line was dominant despite the injuries. The Vols gave up no sacks and rushed for 362 yards. That certainly isn’t the stat line of a team that is ready for the season to be over after a heart-breaking loss. In fact, Tennessee’s offensive line and defense played one of their best games just one week after one of their worst.
Commendable? Undoubtedly. Enough to get in the College Football Playoff. We’ll see.