O Is For Outstanding

After a general meltdown against Notre Dame it was hard to predict how the Vols would perform against Vanderbilt, but somehow a unit held together by bubble gum, kite string and duct tape erupted for 28 points in the opening 19 minutes of play en route to a 38-33 victory.

The last 41 minutes was a different story as far as the game goes, but it's the same old story by this season's standards — inconsistency. Of course, 38 points should be enough for a comfortable victory against a Vandy team of limited talent.

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.

OFFENSIVE LINE (92) Tennessee's offensive line was missing three starters for most of the game but was still able to amass 236 yards on the ground while not surrendering a single sack. Neither starting center Jason Respert or first-team guard Cody Douglas played at all while Michael Munoz went down with a shoulder sprain in the second quarter. UT's offensive decline appeared to corresponded to Munoz's early exit. However the Vols were able to revive the running game in the third quarter enough to add 10 points to their total, helping stave off a late Vandy rally. Rich Gandy is proving to be a versatile performer who is adding flexibility and depth to a besieged O-line. Rob Smith is a rock at left guard for the Vols and Aron Sears is a standout despite playing much of the year hurt. A good recovery from dismal outing against the Fighting Irish.

RUNNING BACKS (90) The best collective effort UT has had this season from its tailback tandem as the Vols averaged 6.2 yards per carry in the game. Cedric Houston gained 97 yards in 19 carries and scored three of Tennessee's five touchdowns. Gerald Riggs Jr. had a career-best 149 yards on 16 runs including a 52-yard gallop. Houston also caught a couple of passes for 16 yards. Fullback Cory Anderson hauled in three passes for 40 yards and was much improved as a lead blocker. David Holbert provided good relief at blocking back and looks ready to challenge for reps. Tennessee's TBs ran with more wiggle, adding an elusive element to their game.

QUARTERBACK (87) Rick Clausen managed the game well and threw on rhythm. He avoided the big mistakes except the fourth quarter INT he threw which cost UT points. He exhibited excellent touch on his two TD throws to Jayson Swain and took what Vanderbilt's defense gave. Clausen's lack of arm strength enabled the Dores to walk the safeties up in run support, but he did a very good job distributing the ball to nine different receivers and completing nine passes of more than ten yards. In short: Mini-C stepped up and performed like a seasoned vet in a high-stakes game against an in-state rival on the road.

RECEIVERS (82) Jayson Swain is becoming the Vols most reliable receiver and a go-to target. He worked his way open on a quick slant for a TD and made a nice grab of a low throw in the back of the end zone for a second. Freshman H-back Chris Brown made a key 17-yard catch but the Vols didn't get a lot from the rest of its receiving corps. Tony Brown caught a 20-yard pass but he also dropped a couple of throws that were on the money. Chris Hannon was shutout and C.J. Fayton's biggest gain was for seven yards. Robert Meachem, a redshirt freshman considered UT's best deep threat, averaged just eight yards on three catches. Tennessee needs more big plays out of its wideout.

OVERALL (90) All things factored this was a winning effort by UT from a reconstituted O-line to a No. 3 QB. Tailbacks were outstanding and fullbacks were solid. This score would have been even higher if Vols had moved the sticks better down the stretch.


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