IT's Take: Arkansas

InsideTennessee's staff breaks down the Vols' 24-20 loss to Arkansas Saturday.


Cory Gunkel's Take

Tennessee didn't use a fourth quarter collapse or a questionable coaching decision to find a way to lose to Arkansas Saturday. The Vols did it the old fashioned way, allowing a physical Razorback team to muscle its way back from down 14 to eventually overcome an overwhelmed team at home. I feel like we could copy and paste the same couple of paragraphs from the IT's Take of Oklahoma and Florida and you wouldn't know the difference (also because you've probably been drinking.)

The Vols squandered yet another double digit lead, only this time it was in the first half. After allowing Arkansas to climb back into the game, Tennessee stalled in the second half, getting the ball just four times and turning just one of those possessions into points (an Aaron Medley field goal.) It was a slow, deliberate death at the hands of Bret Bielema's team, which strangled the life out of Team 119 with each gashing run and successful play-action pass.

The offense came out of the gate swinging, nearly matching Arkansas' rushing yards allowed per game in the first quarter. After that, it was all downhill, and not in the way you'd like to be talking about Jalen Hurd. Hurd had exactly one more yard than you did in the second half after gaining nearly 100 in the first. Alvin Kamara saw just seven touches, and the wide receivers notched some monumental drops that stifled momentum and killed drives. Quarterback Josh Dobbs threw the ball 36 times for 232 yards but wasn't able to find a rhythm behind a still-developing offensive line and the Vols' leading pass catcher (Kamara, 40 yards) was not a receiver for the second straight game. That's, uh, not good. When it counted, the offense failed in its four trips in the red zone, converting those possessions into a measly ten points. That just isn't going to cut it no matter who's lining up against you.

For all its missed tackles and missed plays, the defense was on the field far too long and it showed. Arkansas racked up 494 yards of offense and bounced off of Tennessee like they were tackling dummies. The Hogs had two 100-yard rushers and Brandon Allen was precise and effective. It seems like the Vols get at least 20 QB hurries a game and never have anything to show for it. The red zone D was stout, stopping the Razorbacks three times on six tries to give up just 17 points, but big plays and and inability to once again close the deal defined the D's play. It's been that way in all of Tennessee's three losses, and that's looking to be the identity of the team now.

Special teams are the bellcow of Team 119 and it's extremely obvious. Evan Berry and Alvin Kamara both housed a kickoff and punt return, respectively, and despite Kamara's being called back, it was as good a night as the unit has had in the return game. Trevor Daniel averaged 46.5 yards per punt, and aside from a shaky Aaron Medley who banged home 2-of-3 field goals, this unit far and away outperformed every one on the field.

How do you move on from all this heartbreak? I'm not so sure. But with a Georgia team foaming at the mouth to prove its not as bad as Alabama made it look at home Saturday, you better try.

Defense: C

Offense: C-

Special teams: B+

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Danny Parker's Take

Not exactly the best time of the year to have your worst game.

Tennessee's defense allowed 494 yards of total offense to what amounts to being a one-dimensional Arkansas offense. The Volunteers offense scored a total of one touchdown against the third-worst defense in the Southeastern Conference.

Neither of those should happen, especially when your squad is in a "must win" scenario and in desperate need of a victory to keep a young roster from eating itself the way a portion of the fan base has been for weeks.

As much as the defense bent in the second half (on the field for 21 minutes, 57 seconds), it did a solid job of relinquishing just seven points. People that wanted a faster linebacker in the middle than A.J. Johnson...well, what do you think about the play there now and how much would you pay to have Johnson back?

Time and time again the Vols offense had a chance to shut up a fan base loaded with critics but couldn't get it done. A total of four second-half series totaled 90 yards. That's terrible.

Getting the block on the field goal and running down the ball carrier on the fake kick were enormous plays for Tennessee special teams. Aaron Medley made field goals from 35 then 45 yards but boinked the upright on a 28-yarder. Medley is close to being a weapon for the Vols, but he lacks consistency with his accuracy. Punter Trevor Daniel continues to have an All-SEC type season, averaging 46.5 yards per boot on four attempts.

At this point, this team is at an absolute crossroads. Tennessee will likely be a double-digit underdog each of its next two games and already has a 2-3 record with an 0-2 start in the SEC. How ugly might it get before some key changes are made?

Can series be scripted for freshman quarterback Quinten Dormady? Does a Zach Azzanni or Robert Gillespie become a more intricate part of the gameplanning and playcalling? Guess we will wait and see.

Defense: C

Offense: D

Special teams: A


Josh Woodward's Take

Another week, another loss for the Vols. In my preseason predictions I thought the Vols would lose to Arkansas and win at Florida. Now they have lost both. They seem to be losing a few in the fan base at the moment. The pressure is really on Butch Jones and, honestly, he deserves it.

Offensively, it was a tail of two halves. The Vols looked good in the first half, but weren't able to get anything going in the second half. The drop by Preston Williams was big and he also fumbled in the first half. The offensive line is a real liability and makes it hard to get anything going on offense. Everything the Vols get in the running game is self-made in my opinion. The deep pass game is non-existent and most every defense is aware of this and plays the the short game. They have to be able to adjust and at this point I don't see the staff doing this. Might be time to rethink this tempo offense. It is killing the defense on all these three-and-outs.

Defensively, they got gashed by the most physical offensive line in all of football. The linebacker play besides Jalen Reeves Maybin has been horrible. They have to find an answer there. Arkansas was able to control the clock and the ball most of the second half, as the defense was tired. It showed with all the missed tackles. I could see the staff trying to find an answer with linebacker Kenny Bynum, but he was not the answer tonight. Also something I noticed was all the bad angles taken on defense. They are in the fifth game of the season and this shouldn't be happening.

Special Teams is the class of this Tennessee team. The Evan Berry return was a thing of beauty. The Alvin Kamara return was another good one, but that block in the back, which I'm not sure about helped anyway, was a killer. Aaron Medley continues to have an up and down year.

With Georgia licking its wounds after the Bama beatdown, Tennessee will be a heavy underdog next weekend. How will they respond? Not sure, but I bet CBS is regretting picking this game at the 3:30 time slot.

Defense: D

Offense: D

Special teams: C

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