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October 6, 2013Butch Jones' Tennessee football program lost the battle on Saturday in a heart breaking 34-31 overtime loss to Georgia. But the Vols appeared to have taken a real step in laying the foundation and identity of the program in a game where Tennessee "emptied the bucket". We take a look back at the good and the bad of Saturday with The Day After.
HOT AND COLD
4th down offense - Jones' offense turned 4th down into big play down going 3-for-3 on 4th down plays all in the 4th quarter. The first one coming at their own 34 yard line when Rajion Neal took a weak side flip 43 yards. The second conversion was a simple off-tackle running play of a yard from their own 29 and then the last from the Georgia 35 was a 28 yard pass to A.J. Branisel. The three fourth down conversions accounted for 79 of the Vols 404 yards of offense.
Rajion Neal - The senior followed up his career day against South Alabama with another big day rushing for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns on 28 carries. Neal, who also had 19 yards receiving, was the only tailback to get a carry as Marlin Lane was out due to a foot injury. Neal, who is battling a sore ankle, now has 616 yards on the season at the halfway point.
Justin Worley - The junior quarterback was average at best in the first half, but was much better in the second have going 10 of 17 for 153 yards and a touchdown. Worley was even more impressive in second half on possession downs. The South Carolina native was 7 of 8 for 112 yards and a touchdown on possession downs in the second half and overtime.
Penalties - After having 8 penalties for 43 yards a week ago, the Vols had their worst game of the season in terms of penalties against the Dawgs. Tennessee was flagged 9 times for 67 yards including twice in the Bulldogs game tying drive at the end of regulation. That 17 flags the last two games after being penalties only twice the first two games.
Defending the middle of the field/the slant - It's been a problem all season for the Vol defense and was a problem again on Saturday. Rantavious Wooten had 6 catches for 38 yards and two touchdowns running the slant against the Vol defense. Tennessee desperately needs to find some kind of answers in the open date in defending slot receivers.
THUMBS UP/THUMBS DOWN
The kicking game - Tennessee fans have been wondering when the Vols were going to win the kicking game and Saturday Jones' team was terrific on special teams. Michael Palardy had a career day. The senior averaged 51.2 yards on 6 punts. Palardy made his lone field goal attempt. Five of his 6 kickoffs went for touchbacks and for the day. Georgia had a total of 16 return yards as the Vols coverage units were terrific. Then of course Jalen Reeves Maybin blocks the punt that's returned for a touchdown. It was a fabulous day in the third phase of the game for team #117.
Pig Howard- It's unfortunate that the fumble in overtime overshadows a really good day for the sophomore. Howard had 116 all-purpose yards with 70 yards receiving and 46 yards rushing. Howard clearly gave the Vols a first half spark and provided production they needed from the slot position.
The Youth - Two true freshman accounted for the blocked punt and touchdown. The quartet of freshmen Marquez North, Jason Croom, A.J. Branisel, and Josh Smith accounted for 126 yards and a touchdown on 8 catches. Five of those 8 receptions accounted for first downs on possession downs.
Mike Bajakian - I didn't think at Florida that Bajakian put his offense in the best position to be successful. Saturday against the Dawgs, Bajakian had a fabulous day as a play caller. The offensive coordinator was creative in how he got the ball to Howard and he was creative in guys open agains the Georgia defense. The Vols were also balanced with 41 rushes and 31 passing attempts.
Defending the quarterback's feet - South Alabama's Ross Methany rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown last week. The week before Florida's Tyler Murphy rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown. Saturday, Tennessee gave up 57 yards to Aaron Murray on a quarterback draw on a play that set up a touchdown to open the 4th quarter.
Closing out the game -- A week ago, Tennessee had a chance to put the South Alabama game away early and didn't do it. Saturday, Tennessee couldn't close the game out in the last 2 minutes. Georgia converted just 4 third downs the entire game and 3 of those 4 came on the game tying drive.
Tennessee's conditioning. Give strength coach Dave Lawson a lot of credit. Jones prides his problem in their physical play and conditioning and give them credit the wore Georgia down in the second half. The Vols scored on their final two possessions of regulation and stopped themselves in the overtime period. Those two scoring drives when for 75 and 80 yards and they wore on the Bulldog defense.
For the good, it was 39 yards missed field goal by Georgia in the third quarter where the Bulldogs had a chance to make it 20-3. Tennessee took that missed and went 78 yards in 7 plays to make the score 17-10 thanks to a great catch by North.
For the bad, with less than a minute to play, Georgia faced a 3rd and 6 and the Vol defense lost freshman running back Brandon Douglas out of the backfield who caught a swing pass and turned it into a 32 yard gain setting up Georgia at the 13 yard line.
You could give out a ton of gameballs for this game. A lot of players played well and a lot of positions played well.
I giving the gameball to head coach Butch Jones. Jones had a great feel for his football team all week. He saw the mental and physical fatigue with his team. He rested his team during the week to have them fresh on Saturday. He had his team ready to play and give him and his staff credit for their half time adjustments.