November 10, 2013

The Day After

Tennessee was looking for some magic on Saturday as the returned home following two tough weeks on the road. Tennessee found themselves down just seven with 81 seconds to play in the first half before the wheels fell off. We take a look back at Saturday's loss the our Sunday feature, The Day After.

HOT AND COLD

HOT

Michael Palardy's field goals - The do-it-all senior kicker continues to do everything for the Vols and while his punting has garnered him the most attention as he was named one of 10 finalists for the Ray Guy Award last week. The Florida native is also having a really good year kicking field goals. Saturday, Palardy went 3 for 3 and he is now 13 of 15 on the year with one of those misses blocked by the hand of his holder Tyler Drummer.

Rajion Neal - Neal had 124 yards on the afternoon and now has four 100-yard rushing games for the season. It was a nice bounce back for Neal who had just 8 yards on 8 carries last week. For the season, Neal now has 895 yards rushing. Neal also had 23 yards on 2 catches and the senior did a really good job of breaking tackles in one of his better games.

NOT

Kick coverage - For the first time since 2006, Tennessee gave up a punt return and a kickoff return for a touchdown. But it was just those two returns that hurt the Vols. All total Tennessee gave up 312 return yards. Just a horrible day of coverage. Tennessee got out of their coverage lanes too often and when they were in their coverage lanes they didn't tackle very well.

Rush defense - Auburn's 444 yards is the most given up by Tennessee since Alabama had 457 yards in 1986, a game in which Tennessee gave up 56 points in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee's rush defense has just been gashed the last three weeks as opponents have rolled up 987 yards on the ground against the Vols.

The second quarter - It's been a rough two weeks in the second quarter for the Vols. Saturday, Auburn rushed for 166 yards and they scored 28 points. Last week, Missouri blew open the game with 17 points in the second quarter. At Missouri, Tennessee's defense gave up 236 yards to go with those 17 points. This week it was 211 yards. So in the last two second quarters, John Jancek's defense has given up 45 points and 447 yards.

The quarterback run - The running quarterback has given the Vol defense major problems all season long. Saturday was the lowest point as Nick Marshall rushed for 214 yards on 14 carries. Vol defenders never found Marshall with the ball around the line of scrimmage. Now for the season, Tennessee has given up 671 yards on 85 carries by quarterbacks this season.

THUMBS UP/THUMBS DOWN

THUMBS UP

Josh Dobbs - Give the freshman credit. In his second start, Dobbs really only made one bad mistake in the interception on a ball he should have never thrown as the receiver was clearly covered. But for the day, Dobbs was 16 of 25 for 128 yards and he had 50 yards rushing on 10 carries. Dobbs must improve his deep ball accuracy, but give him credit for handling everything with poise in directing the offense.

Marlin Lane - Lane has been better than solid for the last four games. Coming into the game Lane had 117 yards the last three weeks. With 53 yards Saturday, Lane's four game total is now 36 carries for 170 yards.

The offensive line - After only helping the running game post 94 yards a week ago, the Vol offensive front responded to Jones' week of criticism and challenging as the offense netted 226 yards rushing. The only real disappointment in the ground game was the inability to convert 3rd and short and 4th and short on consecutive snaps in the second half and 4 penalties for 30 yards.

THUMBS DOWN

The defensive front - A week ago at Missouri, the defensive front was credited with a half tackle for loss and with 20 total tackles out of 74. Saturday against Auburn, the defensive front didn't have a tackle for loss and only recorded 17 tackles. Defensive tackle Daniel McCullers only has 2 tackles in the last two games. In the Vols win over South Carolina, the defensive front had 4 sacks and 3 tackles for loss in 24 total tackles. If the Vols are going to go bowling then the defensive front must be more active and must play in the backfield more.

Tackling -- Without a doubt over the last 12 quarters, Tennessee's speed deficiencies particularly on defense have been exposed. The lack of speed doesn't just show up in running with receivers or chasing down running backs. It also shows up in tackling as the lack of foot speed affects angles and affects the ability to close a hole or contain the edge. If Tennessee is going to get to a bowl game they must find a way to manage the lack of speed and they most tackle better in space. It's a re-occurring theme that has to be a focal point in recruiting.

The chunks - The Vols inability to stop the big play was painful to watch on Saturday. Auburn had 60 offensive snaps and 15 of those 60 (25%) were for 20 yards for more. Throw in 6 kick/punt returns of 20 yards or more and the Vols gave up 21 snaps of 20+ yards. In total 31.3% (21 of 67) of Auburn's touches resulted in a play of 20+ yards.

TRENDING

Obviously, the most disturbing trend of this three game losing streak is the inability to stop the run whether it's a running quarterback or not. Tennessee in the last three games has given up 987 yards on the ground. In the last two weeks, the quarterback has rushed for 328 yard on 27 carries (12.1 yards a rush).

Tennessee's defense must fix the run game woes if they are going to win their last two games and go bowling.

TURNING POINT

After Jacques Smith 18-yard interception return for a touchdown to make it 27-20 with 1:21 to go before the half. It took Auburn all of 2 snaps and :30 to extend the lead back to 14 as Marshall on the second snap ran untouched 38 yards for the score.

Then Auburn held onto that momentum to start the second half with the 90 yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

GAMEBALL

My gameball goes to senior running back Rajion Neal. The Georgia native was challenged this week to not be tackled on first contact and to run the ball more North and South. Neal responded with 124 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The touchdown run was exactly what he has been challenged to do. Neal also had two catches for 23 yards and both went for first downs.

For the day Neal finished with 147 yards on 22 touches (6.7 yds/touch) as the senior accounted for 42% of the Vols total offense on Saturday.



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