Worse than thought, better than believed
By Grant Ramey | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
About the biggest goal Tennessee could have had Saturday was simple execution.
Execute like a team should in a BCS vs. FCS match-up. Execute like a team should when it’s better than the opposition at every position on the field.
Execute like a team stuck in between two big games — not reading the headlines about itself after a big win to start the year over North Carolina State and not looking forward to rival Florida visiting Neyland Stadium next week.
Execute like a Tennessee football team should against a far inferior opponent.
And for the most part, the Vols did that. And won in a game that was never really contested.
“Good win, but as in any game, a lot of mistakes and a lot of concerns,” head coach Derek Dooley said. “So we’ve got to clean it up and get on to the next week.”
Much of the film from the first half will have to be cleaned up before Florida (2-0) comes to Knoxville Saturday.
The Tennessee secondary was often times caught trying to communicate coverage when Georgia State snapped the ball — clearly not on the same page, and it showed.
Georgia State converted a third-and-20 — with a 25-yard completion over the middle — on it’s first drive. Later in the possession the Panthers gained 24 yards on third-and-25. GSU quarterback Ben McLane ran for 7 yards on fourth-and-1.
“We were playing a little poorly,” Dooley said. “They were doing a lot of crossing routes, causing some issues in man-to-man (coverage).
The Vols settled in, though, a lot like last week in Atlanta.
The two drives Georgia State managed to sustain in the first half — the Panthers’ first two drives of the game — were limited to field goals.
“We had to change what we were playing. ... But then we kind of settled in to what they were doing.”
Tennessee’s offense had its own head-scratching moments in the first two quarters.
Michael Palardy missed on a 39-yard field goal attempt with Tennessee leading 7-3 in the first quarter. He’s missed an extra point in the third quarter.
It’s an all too common sight from Palardy in the junior place kicker’s all too disappointing Tennessee career.
“That’s obviously a concern moving forward,” Dooley said.
Tennessee went three-and-out on it’s next drive, capped by Dooley’s decision to punt on fourth-and-1 at the Tennessee 49-yard line. Matt Darr’s punt didn’t really affirm the coaches’ decision, netting 35 yards.
Marlin Lane’s lost fumble in the second quarter won’t help him in the three-man competition at tail back.
“You can’t put the ball on the ground,” Dooley said. “He knows that.”
Short yardage was again a shortcoming for Tennessee’s running backs.
“Short yardage is an issue,” Dooley said. “It’s shown up twice in two games. And we’re gonna have to keep searching on what to do.
“Maybe we just need to spread it out and throw it.”
Tennessee didn’t have a problem throwing it Saturday, a positive that heavily outweighed the sloppy negatives in the 51-13 win.
Tyler Bray couldn’t have been much better, completing all but two of his 20 pass attempts for 310 yards while picking apart an out-manned secondary for four touchdowns.
Rajion Neal gave UT the run-up-the-middle options — on a couple different occasions — that the Vols missed in Atlanta.
“Sometimes we look good running the ball,” Dooley said, “and sometimes we don’t look good at all.”
Bray’s receivers, too, took advantage of Georgia State’s soft pass defense.
Justin Hunter had 146 yards receiving on eight catches, including three touchdowns — Mychal Rivera, who had four receptions for 70 yards in the first half, had the other.
Coradarrelle Patterson ran wild, again, in the open field. He had 195 yards of total offense on the day, including 71 receiving, 18 rushing and 106 yards in kickoff returns.
“It’s never as good as you think and it’s never as bad as you think,” Dooley said. “But the two are always mentioned.”
Saturday certainly wasn’t as bad as it looked at times.
But looking bad, no matter how briefly, usually isn’t an option in the Southeastern Conference, which, no one needs to be told, starts next Saturday for the Vols.
Grant Ramey is a sports writer at The Daily Times. Follow him on Twitter @TDT_Sports. He wrote from Knoxville.