IT's Take: No silver lining, no excuse

If you're looking for a silver lining to Tennessee's road loss to Vanderbilt, do not continue reading.

Scott Hall's take

Well it is no secret the seats for the Tennessee coaching staff are significantly warmer after the 45-34 loss to Vanderbilt at Dudley Field on Saturday night.

This loss is certainly one that will be discussed long into the offseason. The big second-guessing coaching decision of the offseason was Butch Jones deciding to make a change at defensive coordinator in January, going from John Jancek to Bob Shoop. Injuries have played a major role in the struggles on that side of the ball but for many fans the inability to even slow teams down is about much more than just bad luck with injures.

Offensively the Vols came out clicking on all cylinders and played well enough to win. Joshua Dobbs had a key fumble at the end of the third quarter, a problem that has plagued him throughout his career. The offense was not able to keep pace with Vandy in the second half and that was disappointing but Mike Debord and company performed plenty well to get out of Nashville with a win.

Bob Shoop seemed more like a MLB manger shuffling linebackers into the game as if they were being inserted for a lefty-lefty matchup. The plan was to play different guys at the linebacking position depending on what personnel Vandy played on offense but that plan failed miserably. The defense was constantly confused with alignment issues just before the ball was snapped and was never able to get into any kind of comfort level. The defense once again was gutted for over 600 yards and gave up 45 points to a Commodore offense that hasn't been a quality unit all year. This defensive performance would have to go down as one of the worst in the last 25 years considering the opponent.

The missed field goal late in the game hurt badly but other than that the special teams unit performed well enough to win.

This loss ends any chance that Team120 will be viewed as a team that completed a successful season.

Grades

Offense: B+

Defense: F

Special teams: B-

Danny Parker's take

The regular season of what might have been has come to a conclusion. Expectations of a double-digit number of wins and an Eastern Division crown fell to the wayside.

That’s the curse of recruiting and talent and networks like Scout. The star ratings and analysts create an idea of what some players should look like but it takes far more than 40 times and freak athleticism to get victories in the Southeastern Conference. On Saturday night, we saw a Vanderbilt team that started players that Butch Jones’ staff never pursued and that bunch cancelled Tennessee’s flight to New Orleans.

There’s a similar air around Tennessee football as the 2011 season after the Vols tumbled at Kentucky. That’s not fair because the program is in a better place and set up at 8-4 for a solid bowl game, but the feeling resembles because the Vols lost to a team it’s flat unacceptable to let beat you. That’s what the Commodores did — they flat beat Tennessee.

No NFL scout is going to look up and down Derek Mason’s roster and say that the Vols had no business even being in the game. Quite the opposite. Between defensive end Derek Barnett (junior), running back Alvin Kamara (redshirt junior), wide receiver Josh Malone (junior), linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (injured), cornerback Cameron Sutton and defensive end Corey Vereen, Tennessee should easily break its two-year drought of not having a player selected in the NFL Draft.

Tennessee getting torched by Vanderbilt for 45 points and 608 yards of offense is unacceptable in any year ever. The Vols have now allowed 1,983 yards in three games — to the ‘Dores, Kentucky and Missouri, not Louisville, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Bob Shoop’s group allowed 8 of 14 third-down conversions and 5 of 6 Vanderbilt red-zone appearances went for TDs. A consistency in the defensive stats of late has been defensive backs leading the team in tackles, which is not good — at all. Micah Abernathy had eight tackles, Cameron Sutton six and five apiece for Malik Foreman and RaShaan Gaulden.

Butch Jones said the defensive adjustments Mason & Co. made weren’t anything eye-opening. Yet, the Vols went from lighting up the scoreboard to getting a pair of field-goal attempts on their five second-half possessions. Kamara hopping out of bounds on fourth down was essentially a turnover and Joshua Dobbs’ fumble was one of the more costly of his career. Tough deal for the senior, who had arguably his most productive day putting the ball in flight, completing 31 of 34 for 340 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. However, the decision making on their final drive played perfectly into the hands of the Commodore defense, completing five passes for 7 yards or less, allowing the clock to tick away too often.

Josh Malone’s return to the mid-state results in seven catches for 121 yards and a TD but the Gallatin native had to use the words “embarrassing” and “unacceptable” in the post-game press conference.

Aaron Medley made field goals of 41 and 25 yards but his doink off the upright from 37 yards out with 6:46 to play made a potential comeback quite a bit tougher. The kickoff coverage unit performed almost perfectly containing the explosive Darrius Sims.

Big Orange Country did its part to take over Vanderbilt Stadium as it appeared from the field level that there was more orange in the house than gold. Those people got taunted by several Commodores after touchdowns and especially after the end result. So, they’re going to be angry for quite awhile. Winning cures all but it’ll be at least a month before Tennessee can get back to that…in Charlotte, Jacksonville, Memphis or wherever.

Grades

Offense: B

Defense: F

Special teams: C-


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