IT's Take: Kentucky

InsideTennessee brings you the best and latest coverage of all things Tennessee. Scroll down to see what grades the staff gave the Vols after its win over Kentucky.

BLEVINS

Riley Blevins' thoughts

After a prolonged hibernation, Tennessee's pass rush woke up to front a season-ending, 27-14 win at Kentucky.

Senior defensive end Corey Miller turned in a 4.5-sack performance, breaking Reggie White's single-game sack record and nearly earning the defense an "A" on his own.

Miller's first sack, which came early in the second quarter, broke a defensive line sack-less streak that dated back to Oct. 19 against South Carolina.

But the defensive line wasn't the only unit shaking off cobwebs.

Tennessee's passing attack also shrugged off some of its season-long woes, looking formidable throughout a 199-yard performance without Marquez North.

Joshua Dobbs clearly has a long way to go still, but he showed flashes Saturday that haven't been seen since his half of football against Alabama.

While the freshman's first career touchdown pass was a fluke, as Jason Croom turned what looked to be a sure interception into a 43-yard score, he hit receivers in stride and added an occasional spark with his legs. Dobbs finished the evening 14-of-23 with two interceptions and a touchdown.

Rajion Neal eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season on the game's second play, racing 60-yards for the score. The Vols' rushing attack was potent throughout, just as it was most of the season. Neal tallied 137 yards and a touchdown.

The offense's output was certainly palatable, but given the opponent, 27-points isn't exactly outstanding in a league filled with routine 40-plus point performances.

Michael Palardy missed his first extra point of the season, but logged an otherwise outstanding performance. Palardy finishes the season with 19 punts of more than 50 yards and made coffin corner punts look routine Saturday (and all season, really). He also logged a career-best 69-yard punt late in the fourth quarter.

Devrin Young also provided a special teams spark, racking up two returns of more than 30 yards in a performance Butch Jones dubbed his "best game ever."

GRADES

Defense — A

Offense — C

Special teams — A

PARKER

Danny Parker's thoughts

Hard to imagine defensive end Corey Miller finishing off his senior season at Tennessee in more impressive fashion after registering 4.5 sacks. Team goals didn't work out the way he and so many others preferred but for those who know Miller, it was a great ending to his time in Knoxville.

Rajion Neal was all smiles in the post-game interview room — and he should have been. The senior running back ran more like a freshman fighting for a spot, piling up 134 yards on 20 carries, including a 60-yard table-setting scoring gallop. His effort allowed him to pass the 1,000-yard mark, and his mates in the trenches were quite pleased.

Tennessee running for over 200 may well be the program's last productive effort for quite awhile with graduation hitting that side of the ball so hard. Joshua Dobbs bounced back after a horrible game against Vanderbilt by tossing just nine incompletions and providing three TDs total (2 pass, 1 run).

As a Powell native, I'm sure Dyshawn Mobley thoroughly enjoyed every inch of his 143 yards rushing for Kentucky. However, this net was 4 yards more than the team total of 139. Maxwell Smith throwing for 254 yards and two TDs is just another example of how far the secondary has to go before 2014 kicks off.

The Vols got increasingly better with coverage units after the debacle against Auburn. Michael Palardy didn't quite kick like the champion he did earlier this season but the senior was all smiles after booting a 69-yarder in the second half.

GRADES

Defense — B+

Offense — C

Special teams — B

MOORE

Randy Moore's thoughts

Butch Jones has talked all season about the need for "splash" plays. He got his wish Saturday night at Kentucky.

Tennessee's second snap of the game resulted in a 60-yard touchdown run by Rajion Neal. The Vols' third possession ended with a 42-yard touchdown pass from Josh Dobbs to Jason Croom. Dobbs and Croom hooked up again in the second quarter, this time for a 36-yard gainer. Dobbs later scored on a 40-yard keeper that bumped Tennessee's lead to 20-0.

No one is going to mistake Kentucky's defense for Alabama's but the fact the Vols finally showed a big-play dimension was encouraging, especially considering that they were without their No. 1 quarterback (Justin Worley) and their No. 1 receiving threat (Marquez North).

Coming off a horrendous performance against Vanderbilt last weekend, Dobbs performed quite competently. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 199 yards and contributed some good runs in addition to the 40-yard scoring jaunt. That opened things up for Rajion Neal, who rushed 20 times for 134 yards. Still, I'm dropping the offense's grade one letter because Neal and Marlin Lane coughed up fumbles, even though Neal's was recovered by a teammate. Dobbs also gave up an interception that should not have been thrown.

Tennessee's defense surrendered 25 completions in 38 attempts for 254 yards but, unlike last weekend versus Vanderbilt, came through in the clutch. The goal-line stand at the end of the third quarter preserved a 27-7 Vol lead and turned out to be monumental in retrospect. I don't know what Corey Miller (4½ sacks) ate for his pre-game meal but that needs to be on the menu before every contest next fall.

Michael Palardy posted an incredible 49.5-yard average on punts but that was largely because UK's return man was unable (or unwilling) to field the ball, which routinely bounced another 15 yards or so. Still, Palardy kicked fairly well and Jacob Carter did a nice job fielding the on-sides kick that sealed Kentucky's doom.

All things considered, it wasn't a great performance … but it was good enough to beat Kentucky. Ultimately, that's all that matters.

GRADES

Defense — B

Offense — C

Special teams — A

WOODWARD
I was concerned this team wouldn't come to play in Lexington. Boy was I wrong, the Vols looked good on offense and defense. Kudos to Coach Jones getting his team prepared for this game. Good for the seniors who have been through so much to go out on a winning note.

Offensively the Vols looked much better than they have the last few games. Josh Dobbs threw the ball well and didn't make any freshman mistakes. I really liked how Devrin Young played the slot. Young really made some nice catches. Both Marlin Lane and Rajion Neal had some nice runs, but they both fumbled the ball and lost one. This win will give the Vols some momentum for the 2014 season.

Corey Miller was a beast tonight, Miller's three and a half sacks was the most ever during a single game. I thought the secondary had a much better game with Cameron Sutton and Justin Coleman doing a solid job.

Michael Palardy missed his first extra point of the year, but he made up for it with his punting. He was a true weapon dropping ball after ball inside the five yard line. Devrin Young also had some good returns and helped get Tennessee good field position. All in all good execution for the Vols.

GRADES

Defense — A

Offense — B

Special teams — B


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