Tennessee Post-Game Analysis
Fredi Knighten completed nearly 62% of his passes, in his second start in front of a massive crowd. His 22 completions were distributed among nine players. No he’s not Tom Brady and he isn’t being asked to be either. One stat pair I like to look at is yards per passing attempt and yards per completion. Knighten averaged about 5.3 yards per attempt and 8.6 per completion. Obviously we aren’t building the offense around the deep ball but after last season I’m comfortable with that. I want a QB with confidence who has success that inspires confidence in his teammates. The Vols averaged about a 58% completion rate.
The offensive line. Last year drop back passing was an adventure because the line was getting pounded. Knighten frequently had good time to throw and has the wheels to get out of trouble when the pocket falls apart. I’m much more pleased with the capacity to have time to throw being better than I expected. That said, we cannot get the push needed up front, at least against a Tennessee, to be able to be a strong threat between tackles. My two-bit play calling opinion is the jet sweep and faster developing screens and swing passes are the best hope for opening up life between the tackles. Running backs. Michael Gordon appears to be hurt and right now it is wise to be concerned about his durability and the depth behind him. Knighten was nearly half of our yards on the ground.
Receivers. Tres Houston has already matched his last year receiving total and nearly doubled his yards. J.D. McKissic is on pace for his reception total to be half of last season. Once Houston starts garnering more respect from defenses, I think J.D.’s pace picks up. McKissic will also be helped as Griswold and Paschall are likely to start gaining defensive respect as well.
Defensive line. The second college game Chuks Ota played in, he started. He had two tackles. To quote an old coach “You can’t hide a freshman on the defensive line because when they have to play a Big XII or SEC team they are going to see some sh-- that will make their head explode.” Ota’s head seems to be intact.
Now this should make you smile. AState recorded four tackles for loss, by five players. Three defensive linemen accounted for 2.5 TFL. Two of the four quarterback hurries were recorded by defensive linemen. Blackmon broke up a pass. The Vols averaged 3.7 YPC, not ideal but solid and it shows the guys behind them are able to limit the ability to exploit the front line. Depth is certainly still a worry there but after eight quarters, I think the guys up front are exceeding reasonable expectations.
Despite having to shuttle in and out Qushaun Lee tied for most tackles on the day and Xavier Woodson tied for second. The linebackers produced a shared tackle for loss and two QB hurries. Heath broke up one pass. They also provided big help run stopping.
Defensive backs. Money Hunter had a pick. Andrew Tryon and Artez Brown each broke up a pair of passes and Sterling Young another. Tennessee managed four big pass receptions which I think speaks well given that AState was for the most part devoting its energy to stopping the run and putting a lot of the stop pressure on the corners and safeties.
For the second straight week McKissic pushed to make a play that just wasn’t there, muffed a punt and it resulted in the opponent gaining points. My bottom of the cereal box psychology degrees tells me that J.D. was playing like he feels the need to prove he is a playmaker rather than acting like a proven playmaker, maybe that’s just an impact of all the coaching changes or frustration about the attention he is drawing on pass routes. He did post a 30 yard kickoff return. Luke Ferguson missed a PAT but he had 7 punts for a 43 yard average with three downed inside the twenty. Daryl Rollins-Davis had a 41 yard kickoff return and became the 13th true freshman to play this year. The fake punt was a gutsy call and well executed.
Odds and Ends
Comparing USU/AState/UT AState allowed UT 32 more yards offense than USU did but USU’s two turnovers led to 38 UT offensive yards and 10 points, AState’s turnover led to 64 yards and 7 points. AState conceded four drives of 10 plays, all four resulted in touchdowns, a nine play drive yielded a FG. The Red Wolves assembled a 13 play and an 11 play drive both resulting in TD’s. The Vols had one scoring drive of less the 64 yards, a nine yard effort that produced their final FG. They had four scoring drives of more than 70 yards, three TD’s and a FG. The AState scoring drves were 40, 72, and 83 yards, credit special teams for that short drive. The Red Wolves went three and out five times, Tennessee three times.
My opinion, I can go through a number of positions on the field and my conclusion would be we aren’t as good as what we saw at this point in 2011 or 2012 or 2013 because we are less experienced. But 2011 we were 1-1 with an 18 point loss at an Illinois team that won 6 in a row before dropping 6 in a row and a pasting of a very bad Memphis. In 2012 1-1 losing to a great Oregon that could have named its score and had to rally to beat a bad Memphis after giving away 14 points. In 2013 we were 1-1 having pasted UAPB and having a 29 point loss to eventual national runner-up Auburn though arguably not the second best team in the country.
Right now I think the case is fairly well made that AState is performing at least as well as those three teams. The 2011 team dropped a 19 point game at Va.Tech (11-3 won their division). The 2012 team lost by 29 at Nebraska who finished 10-4 and won their division. In 2013 we won a narrow barn burner with Troy who finished 6-6.
Normally I don’t expect to learn much from a game like Miami but if the Red Wolves clean-up the mistakes we may learn that this team is likely to exceed expectations.
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