Vols see where they want to be
By Grant Ramey | (email@example.com)
It was a one-sided track meet in ‘Tracktown, USA.’ And it was a 60-minute close up of what Butch Jones wants his Tennessee football program to be.
A team with speed, a team with precision, a team loaded with talent, a team executing a tempo that’s hard to prepare for, a team that dominates it’s opponent from start to finish.
“(Oregon has) done a great job,” Jones said his team’s 59-14 loss, which happened to be Tennessee’s worst in 103 years, dating back to a 48-0 loss in 1910 to Mississippi A&M.
“They have depth,” Jones continued. “Great football teams have depth. We got to that point at Cincinnati, we had tremendous depth.”
Butch got his Cincinnati team there in three years. Just like he did at Central Michigan. Saturday in Eugene, though, showed that his newest rebuilding project could be three years and then some.
The stats proved the stark separation of talent and depth between two programs on opposite ends of the spectrum. Oregon continuing to ride the high-water mark of the program’s momentum the last half decade, the same time span that’s seen Tennessee seemingly bottom out on more than a few occasions.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota threw for 456 yards and four touchdowns. He ran for 26 yards upping his total to 261 yards rushing through three games and another score. His day ended in the third quarter, after providing his team more than enough cushion.
“Anytime you have a quarterback that can throw the ball and run the football, you’re always a gap short,” Jones said. “You’re always a man short.”
Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley threw for 126 yards and the Vols’ only touchdown before being pulled in the second half, with his team down 52.
The Ducks had two receivers go over 100 yards. Josh Huff had 125 and a touchdown. Johnny Mundt had 121 yards and two scores. Running back Rajion Neal led that category for Tennessee, with four catches for 23 yards.
True freshman Marquez North had three for nine yards. Brendan Downs had two for 18. Lane had two for 16. Another freshman, Josh Smith, had one for 51.
“At times there were walk-ons and true freshmen out there at the receiver position,” Jones said. “We have to work to get open.”
On the ground, the hyper-speed Ducks had eight runners combine for 234 yards on 41 carries, getting four scores on the ground from four different runners. Neal had 12 carries for 42 yards for Tennessee. Marlin Lane had 13 for 63. Alden Hill had five for 38 yards and the Vols’ lone rushing touchdown.
“We pride ourselves on being a physical, blue collar football team,” Jones said. “I thought (Oregon) won the battle of the line of scrimmage, and that can’t happen.”
All told, Oregon won battles all over the field, rolling up 687 total yards of offense on 76 plays, like only the Ducks can.
Tennessee, a team that will eventually pride itself in offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian’s up-tempo scheme, had 316 total yards and 14 points on 67 plays, just nine less snaps than Oregon.
“We need some playmakers,” Jones said. “I believe we had one explosive play all game. You can’t do that.”
The obvious fact is, Tennessee needs a lot of things. And Oregon doesn’t. The Vols are in ‘the process.’ The Ducks are continuing to reap the rewards of the same process.
“I’ve said it, our job is two fold, we have to continue to develop the players we have in this program and we have to go recruit the best, highest character student-athletes to come here,” Jones said. “We’ll do that.”
“No one is going to feel sorry for us,” Jones added later. “We have to keep going to work everyday, that’s the only way you can do it.”
Grant Ramey is an award-winning sports writer for The Daily Times. Email him at (firstname.lastname@example.org) Follow him on Twitter at @GrantRamey. He wrote from Eugene, Ore.