Blevins: Promises, promises

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COLUMBIA, Mo. – Antonio Richardson strutted into a closet-sized room, head high, chest puffed.

45-10 glowed on the scoreboard.

A smile beamed on the tackle's face.

You'd never guess his team was just buried by archrival Alabama.

He spoke of a bright future and assured improvements despite the thrashing.

His optimism was refreshing.

The Vols weren't going to dwell on the past.

"Snap and clear," Richardson said. "Snap and clear."

He should have stopped there.

"We'll beat Missouri, I promise you that," Richardson then claimed.


Richardson's fire and passion didn't make the trip to Columbia.

The Vols were gashed by No. 10 Missouri, shivering through a 31-3 beat down at a brisk Memorial Stadium.

Tennessee has been outscored 76-13 in its last two games.

Saturday night became comical.

And guess who was at the brunt of the jokes?

"Look, there's 74," said pointing fans donning gold and black.

The heckling was deserved.

"We have the best offensive line in the country."

Does that sound familiar?

Butch Jones says it. Players say it. Over and over.

Where's the evidence?

Richardson and the rest of his offensive line cohorts didn't provide any Saturday.

Rajion Neal received a team-high eight carries and gained just 8 yards.

Time after time, Tennessee tailbacks stomached a handoff and were promptly gobbled up in the backfield.

Tennessee totaled 115 rushing yards. Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk ran for 117.

Freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs was Tennessee's leading rusher with 45 yards.

The Vols' rushing attack was dormant.

"It's a line of scrimmage game," Jones said. "They dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball."

It goes without saying: with a first-time starter at quarterback throwing to a group of young wideouts, running the ball needs to be Tennessee's bread-and-butter.

The offensive line is loaded with veterans. They need to lead.

Instead, they drew flags.

"We'll get that corrected," Jones said. "The pre-snap penalties are unacceptable. It can't happen."

Richardson knows that.

"(Too) many penalties and missed opportunities. It is what it is! I take full responsibility for my mess ups!" Richardson tweeted post-game.

The responsibility was refreshing.


Will it be backed?

Brian Randolph walked into a cold, cramped space outside Memorial stadium.

His team was just punished. His expression was not telling.

"(Auburn) is definitely a great opportunity to go out and show what we're made of," he said.

No, the safety did not promise a win against No. 11 Auburn, but the confidence was eerily similar.

And again, it was refreshing.

It would be easy to rip and critique a team blasted by yet another opponent. Heck, I just spent the last 400-words doing just that.

At times, the encouragement could seem confusing – even frustrating.

If you look at the box score, it certainly seems unwarranted.

But think of the opposite.

No, think of last season.

Unsightly losses under the Derek Dooley administration resulted in hung heads, red eyes and negative attitudes. They didn't believe in eachother.

The results may not be there, but the mindset is.

That's progress in itself.

"I'm disappointed, but I'm not discouraged," a horse Jones said post-game. "They only thing you can do is keep working."

And work they will.

There is no giving up. This team doesn't know how.

Each week is a new week. It's a process. It's going to take time.

In the meantime, Snap and clear.

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