Vols Get High Marks in Miami Upset

Here's the top to bottom ratings for the Tennessee-Miami game. Grades of 90-100 are regarded as championship quality. Grades of 80-89 equate to top 25 worthy, grades of 70-79 are winning marks. Grades of 60-69 are minimum to a winning effort against unranked teams. Any grade below 60 is considered failing.

Secondary: (96) In a very physical game, UT's secondary more than held it's own. In fact, four of the Vols top five tacklers in the game were defensive backs led by Jason Allen with 11 and followed by Gibril Wilson with nine, Jabari Greer with five and Corey Campbell with four. Allen turned in the best game of his career. After being picked on most of the season by opposing quarterbacks, who were avoiding Greer, Allen's development has been on fast forward and he's become a proven performer. Allen's wicked lick on tight end Kellen Winslow prevented a first down and knocked the ball loose, and he broke up a potential touchdown on the last play of the first half. Greer ran down Jarrett Payton from behind to save a touchdown and he shutdown Miami wide receivers in press coverage. Mark Jones hit Berlin as he released a pass on Miami's last possession and Wilson came up with the interception at UT's 8 yard-line. Campbell is the most talented and instinctive free safety Tennessee has had since Deon Grant. Miami's longest completion of the game was 22 yards.

Linebackers: (93) Vol linebackers were around the football all day and wreaked havoc like they were at the beginning of the season when UT beat Fresno State, Marshall and Florida. Defensive line gets a lot of the credit for keeping the second level clear thus allowing UT's linebackers to attack instead of react. Kevin Simon is looking more comfortable each week and continues to add to his impressive season totals. His diving interception was turned into a quick field goal for the Vols. Although he didn't record any sacks, Kevin Burnett got pressure on Brock Berlin. Jason Mitchell's forced fumble on a corner blitz was one of the game's key plays. Robert Peace turned in another solid effort in the middle with eight tackles.

QUARTERBACK: (92) Okay 11 of 18 for 81 yards isn't impressive, but ZERO turnovers and a 9:19 scoring drive are very impressive, especially given the quality of the opponent and Miami's frame of mind. Add the fact Clausen wasn't getting much help from his wide receivers or protection from his offensive line and you begin to recognize how good it was. Clausen maintained his poise under pressure and didn't force any passes. He exhausted the play clock before every snap and exhausted his target options on every play. Note that Victor McClure caught an 11-yard first down pass on Tennessee's scoring drive that was the first pass thrown to a tight end at UT this season. He also dropped off passes to backs and hung in the pocket like a grizzled veteran. His performance in hostile territory was in sharp contrast to that of Brock Berlin's and demonstrated why the decisions a quarterback makes are as important as the plays he makes.

DEFENSIVE LINE: (83) Defensive line didn't dominate the trenches but it did get some push inside and it maintained it's lanes, preventing Miami backs from cutting inside. A courageous effort by J.T. Mapu, who played with a painful hyper-extended elbow and made a key fumble recovery in the fourth quarter to stop a potential Miami scoring drive. Mondre Dickerson was active inside and posted three tackles, but he also made a late hit that cost Tennessee 15 yards. Tennessee made liberal use of the zone blitz and D-lineman did their part in checking receivers and sometimes stemming before the snap to disguise blitzes. Take away Payton's 40-yard run and Miami's other 24 carries netted just 68 yards. On the downside, there was only one tackle total for Tennessee's four defensive ends.

SPECIAL TEAMS: (82) It wasn't the best of days for all-American candidate Dustin Colquitt, but his 56-yard punt with two minutes remaining in the game may have been his best ever as it pinned Cane return man on the boundary and had 4.9 seconds in hang time. That allowed Derrick Tinsley to get down in time to take advantage of Sean Taylor's fumble which sealed the game for Tennessee. Colquitt also sustained an ankle sprain on a roughing penalty that kept Tennessee's touchdown drive alive. Wilhoit hit on his first field goal attempt of 41 yards but missed one in the second half of 39 yards from the left hash mark. The redshirt freshman drove his three kickoffs into the end zone, however one was returned 39 yards. Punt coverage allowed a 14-yard return and a UT punt return unit was flagged for holding, negating 20 yards in field position. Corey Larkins had two kick returns for 41 yards as UT is still looking for that big play from its kick return game.

RUNNING BACKS: (75) Running room was limited so backs never got a chance to shine. Cedric Houston ran strong during Vols scoring drive and gained 45 yards in nine carries for the game. Wing back Derrick Tinsley scored UT's biggest touchdown of the season on end around. Note that Tinsley did a great job of selling play by first going in motion, stopping and then timing his take off perfectly to Clausen's fake hand-off. He read the block and hit the corner at top speed. Jabari Davis had one 10-yard run but appeared tentative on a couple of short yardage attempts that were stopped cold. Fleming led all Tennessee receivers with four catches for 25 yards, including Vols longest play of the day on a 21-yard reception. Tinsley had two catches for 13 yards and Houston added another for nine yards. Gerald Riggs picked up eight yards in four carries with a long run of 10 yards which means three of his runs resulted in minus two yards. Backs didn't fumble and there was plenty of chances with 12 Miami tackles recorded behind the line of scrimmage.

OFFENSIVE LINE: (66) Tennessee's 9:19 scoring drive was was almost four minutes longer than any possession UT has had this season. It was aided by two personal foul penalties that moved the sticks on third and long, but O-line got good surge the closer it got to the red zone and appeared to wear Miami down. UT couldn't control Miami's linebackers who lived in Vols backfield, or get any movement up front in several key short yardage situations. Sean Young has problems when matched up against quick defensive ends. Undoubtedly, Miami has a lot of talent among its front seven, but the Canes were surrendering 154 yards a game on the ground coming into contest and they had two tackles missing against Vols. Tennessee gained just 89 yards in 40 carries. UT has a lot of room for improvement along the front line.

WIDE RECEIVERS: (50) Three catches for 23 yards isn't impressive for an individual much less an entire unit of wide receivers, but that was UT's total production against Miami which was missing starting corner Antrel Rolle. Banks made a big play when he turned a short reception into a key first down with a lunging dive at the marker, but he also had another drop and is too often knocked off routes. Tony Brown, Jayson Swain, C.J. Fayton and Chris Hannon were all shutout and considering that UT's longest run from scrimmage was 12 yards, wideouts couldn't have been having a lot of success blocking down field. This group is still young but it has nine games under its belt and should start showing more consistency. The return of Brett Smith may provide a boost to Vols passing game.

OVERALL: (88) Vols are the first team to beat Miami at home since Penn State in 1999 and they did it scoring their lowest point total in a winning effort since their 10-9 victory over Washington State in 1994. Game plan was to shorten contest while forcing Miami to play on a long field. Tennessee kept receivers in front of them and didn't give up big plays. The key was forcing four turnovers without giving up the ball. The plus-four turnover advantage against Miami by a Tennessee team that was minus-six on the year came at the right time. And none of the turnovers were gifts as all were forced with well place hits, or in the case of Simon's interception, great anticipation. Vols have gone 11 quarters and five overtimes without committing a turnover. With victory Vols have revived their SEC title and BCS Bowl hopes and avenged the third loss from last season following wins over Florida and Alabama. Tennessee couldn't equal Miami's talent, but it did match their speed and lured them into a physical contest, which Vols won.


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