True, there were injuries on the defensive side of the ball but there were also three starters in the offensive line that missed all or most of the game. It wasn't the type of game Vol fans would have anticipated from a team that was rested and playing for an SEC division title against an in-state rival on the road.
Bear in mind this was the same Vanderbilt offense that scored just 19 points against Eastern Kentucky and 13 points against Kentucky.
Here's the top to bottom defensive ratings for the Tennessee-Vanderbilt game. Grades of 90-100 are regarded as championship quality. Grades of 80-89 equate to top 25 worthy, grades of 70-79 are average marks. Grades of 60-69 are passing but problematical. Any grade below 60 is considered failing. We have broken down the units this week to offense and defense. Special teams are also included in the defensive grades.
DEFENSIVE LINE (83) Tennessee didn't dominate up front but it did get decent pressure on the quarterback and created a couple of turnovers that led to UT touchdowns. Parys Haralson recorded two sacks, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and finished with four tackles and a QB hurry. Turk McBride was quick off the ball playing defensive tackle and had two stops for losses. Defensive end Jason Hall led the D-line with five primary tackles. Jesse Mahelona played sparingly because of injury and left a sizable hole in the middle that Justin Harrell (one tackle) and Anthony McDaniel (no tackles) failed to fill.
LINEBACKERS (65) Vanderbilt used misdirection to take UT's linebackers out of the defensive flow and the Vols LBs were also troubled by the down-the-line option. Without healthy backups ready to enter the fray, UT's starting three had no relief. Omar Gaither and Kevin Burnett posted six tackles apiece while middle linebacker Jason Mitchell had three stops. Gaither was the only Vol linebacker to make a tackle behind the line of scrimmage but the tackle was negated by a personal foul penalty for taunting. Lack of depth is a growing concern for UT at this position.
SECONDARY (56) The good news is that Jason Allen contributed nine tackles and picked off his second pass of the season as he continues to put together an All-SEC campaign. Roshaun Fellows was forced to play with a foot sprain when Jonathan Wade proved ineffective in man coverage. Fellows finished with four tackles and intercepted a pass that ended Vanderbilt's upset hopes. However, Tennessee surrendered 314 yards passing and allowed Jay Cutler to complete 66 percent (22-of-33) of his passes. Wade was beaten for an 80-yard touchdown in the second quarter and no UT safety was on the scene. A troubling performance in which the Vols secondary gave up three touchdowns and too many big plays.
SPECIAL TEAMS (52) There's been very little to distinguish Tennessee's kicking game as special this season and that trend continued against a Commodore club that was particularly vulnerable in this area. The longest kick return the Vols had in four attempts was 27 yards by Jonathan Hefney, and UT averaged only 18 yards per return. Tennessee didn't return any of four Vandy punts. The lack of blocking on returns was glaring. The Dores did return one punt for 10 yards and had a long kick return of 28 yards. Dustin Colquitt averaged only 36 yards on three punts and failed to pin the Dores inside their own 20 on their last possession when they had the ball and a chance to take the lead for the first time since the second play of the contest. Ironically, the punt that landed four yards deep in the end zone on the fly, was actually his best struck ball of the game and it was supposed to be a "pooch" kick. Colquitt was limping noticeable throughout the day but he was also booming punts in warm-ups before the game and before the second half. Clearly, some of his problems are mental even if their genesis is physical. James Wilhoit remains the most consistent component of the Vols special teams play. He hit a 34-yard field goal and all five extra points — no small achievement in light of Vanderbilt's point-after adventures. Three of his seven kickoffs were touchbacks. Strength in the kicking game is essential to a team with Tennessee's minute margin of error, but it has failed to materialize, and so, a bedrock tradition of UT football remains unobserved in 2004.
OVERALL (71) The grade is this high because the Vols forced four turnovers and won the game. On the other hand it's the lowest score the defense has recorded this season and its worst overall outing. At times UT's D attacked the ball and created havoc along the line of scrimmage but it also lost focus and intensity after getting an early lead and gave up far too many points and big plays.