IT's Take: Oklahoma

Get the opinions of the InsideTennessee staff on how the Vols performed against the Oklahoma Sooners.

PARKER

Danny Parker's thoughts

The score prediction for No. 4 Oklahoma from Randy Moore and I was dead on, however both of us expected a bit more offense from Tennessee.

The Volunteers surpassed the century mark for rushing yards on their final series but five sacks of quarterback Justin Worley hurt the net, sent the visitors backwards too often and kept them off schedule far too often. It seemed comical at times, and I even suggested during the third quarter that perhaps Marques Pair deserved a shot.

It was hard to tweet much of anything late in the second half after Southeastern Conference officials reviewed the alleged fumble by Oklahoma's Samaje Perine but said he was down before the pigskin came loose. At least two coaches, among others, texted me several times saying otherwise. The lone replay angle shown on the stadium Jumbotron was inconclusive, so who knows? It could have been a game-changing call had it been reversed.

The blocked field goal by the Tennessee defense and the made kick by Aaron Medley were bright spots on special teams. However, Devrin Young's time as the No. 1 kick returner may need to come to an end. The senior doesn't make great decisions on kneel downs and a fumble after the Vols fell behind 10-0 was almost catastrophic before other catastrophes occurred. George Bullock averaging 60 yards per kickoff isn't going to get it done.

Speaking of which, something has to change with either the playcalling or decision making in the red zone. Tennessee's opportunities to punch it in against defenses like Oklahoma's figure to be few and far between in 2014. Run the football. With 6 feet to go...run the football. The end-zone interceptions thrown by Worley were backbreaking, although wide receiver Jason Croom needs to realize at some point that he's 6-feet-5, 240 pounds and no cornerback in the nation should ever out-man him for the football.

The Vol defense held the high-octane Sooners offense to 3 of 12 on third-down conversions, including 0 for 5 in the second half (plus, a fourth-down stop in the third quarter). Although the hole dug in the first half proved too much, Oklahoma had just one second-half series that went further than 39 yards.

Heading into this one, I was extremely intrigued to see how Tennessee's crazy-young roster would respond to both adversity and the environment. It appeared to answer the bell at times and baby steps were taken. But, there's no debating that this team has a long way to go. Getting Von Pearson, Trevarris Saulsberry and Ethan Wolf healthy and back on the field is essential.

GRADES

Defense -C+

Offense —D

Special teams — C

MOORE

Randy Moore's thoughts

I’m really glad I’m not Justin Worley’s ribs. They’ve got to be hurting after all of the shots he took in Saturday night’s 34-10 loss at No. 4 Oklahoma.

Because of slipshod pass protection from an offensive line that started freshmen at right guard and right tackle, Worley was sacked five times, hurried at least five more times and hit as he threw or immediately thereafter another six or seven times. His passing stats – 21 of 44 for 201 yards – were decent, given how erratic his protection was.

After playing miserably in the first two quarters, the O-line actually opened some holes in the final two quarters. So, after rushing for minus-11 yards in the first half, Tennessee ran for a whopping 123 yards in the second half. Freshman Jalen Hurd flashed the form that made him an elite prospect by rushing 14 times for 97 yards.

The Vol defense gave up a touchdown and two field goals on Oklahoma’s first three possessions, then settled down and played well. One of the Sooners’ four TDs was a defensive touchdown (a 100-yard pick six) and another came on a short-field 54-yard drive after a fumble by Worley. Tennessee’s third-down defense was outstanding for the third game in a row, limiting OU to 3 conversions in 12 tries. The Vol D also stopped the Sooners’ only fourth-down attempt.

Tennessee’s special-teams play was an utter disaster. Poor decisions and penalties on kickoffs forced the Vols to start drives at their 16- and 10-yard lines in the first half, creating field-position deficits that put Tennessee behind 13-0 immediately. Aaron Medley hit his only field-goal try but Matt Darr punted poorly (34.8-yard average) and George Bullock kicked off poorly.

GRADES

Defense — B

Offense — C-

Special teams — D-

WOODWARD

Josh Woodward's thoughts

Missed opportunities are the theme for me two red zone turnovers killed the game for Tennessee. They had a chance to keep this game close, but just didn't have enough. On offense the biggest question of the game was the offensive line, this game proved that they need great improvement and are the weak link on this team. Each offensive lineman owes Justin Worley a dinner, Worley took a beating. It wasn't fair for the senior to go through that. Jason Croom didn't fight for the football on that one interception in the end zone and cost the team a turnover. The play calling on the third and goal from the three yard line was very questionable. The Vols had ran down the field that entire drive. I would have liked to seen two runs to see if you can get it in the end zone. Jalen Hurd ran the ball effectively in the second half and showed some burst. Overall two plays back on offense and this is a different ball game

Defensively the Vols did what they had to do, we all knew that OU was going to score points. It was a matter of just slowing them down. They create great mis-matches on defense and that cost the Vols all night. The thing that sticks out to me is how much better Tennessee is on the defensive end position, Derek Barnett, Corey Vereen and Curt Maggitt are playing good football. I can't complain to much on the defense they held the #4 team into the country to only 27 points on the road, so I thought they had a good game plan.

Special Teams was average tonight, Devrin Young had the fumble on kick off and Matt Darr didn't punt the ball really well. The one good thing about Darr's average punt was he hit an Oklahoma player in the back with the ball and Tennessee recovered. Coverage was good considering they had good speed at returner. Aaron Medley looked good on his field goal, which will be a good confidence builde for the young freshman down the road.

GRADES

Defense —B

Offense —D

Special teams —C


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