Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tennessee-MSU Report Card

Tennessee was able to dominate the Mississippi State Bulldogs and get their first SEC win 34-3. So let's take a look at the report card and see how well the Vols improved:



Quarterback

Nick Stephens - 10-of-20 passing, 136 yards - continues to manage the offensive effectively, though not yet spectacularly. However, at this point I will take it.

Stephens also showed a good pocket presence and scrambling ability, breaking an 18-yard run to get the Vols in field-goal position. Stephens is showing great heart out on the field and the offense is starting to respond.

GRADE: B


Tennessee is still no where near expectations in the running game and Arian Foster has not been sharp at all, but he did have the longest run of the night for 19 yards.

Lennon Creer showed good vision and made nice cuts in leading Vols with 68 yards rushing on 17 carries. Creer also had good second effort on his 1-yard TD run. Fulmer should give the ball to Creer more often, as he seems to be the back who could give Tennessee the big play.

GRADE: C



Wide Receivers

Lucas Taylor made a clutch fourth-down grab while Denarius Moore reeled in a 45-yard strike from Stephens to stretch the defense. Moore has become Stephens' favorite target.

Gerald Jones didn't make a catch before his ankle sprain and had a pass go through his arms. Luke Stocker also had a drop. Clawson and Fulmer meed to get Brandon Warren more involved.

GRADE: C



Offensive Line

No penalties and adequate pass protection in only allowing Mississippi State one sack. The run blocking picked up in the second half but is still lacking and not getting the physical push typical of Tennessee lines of the past. Fulmer being a former lineman himself cannot be happy with their effort this season.

GRADE: C-


Defensive Line

Wes Brown, Chris Walker and Robert Ayers all recorded sacks, and the defensive tackles did an outstanding job clogging the interior running lanes, holding the Bulldogs to only 2.3 yards per carry.

A few missed tackles on sack opportunities, or it would have been an even better night. The line should still be recording more sacks to keep some of the pressure off the linebackers.

GRADE: B



Linebackers

Speaking of the linebackers, Nevin McKenzie recorded two sacks and Ellix Wilson tipped two passes that resulted in interceptions. Rico McCoy only had two tackles.

McKenzie, however, was faked out of his jock strap by the QB in the open field, leading to a first down. Missed tackles like that have cost Tennessee in games this season, and will not help when playing Alabama next week.

GRADE: B+



Secondary

Have I mentioned before that Eric Berry is awesome? Well he is!

Berry and Demetrice Morley each returned interceptions for touchdowns, and Berry had a QB sack and led the team with 10 tackles. DeAngelo Willingham atoned for a pass interference penalty with an interception. Strong coverage.

You cannot ask for a better game than that from the secondary.

GRADE: A



Special Teams

Not the best punting effort from Britton Colquitt. He shanked a punt for 26 yards and only averaged 44 yards a punt which is not good for him.

Daniel Lincoln made field goals from 28 and 36 yards, he missed a 34-yarder. Other than Dennis Rogan's 40-yarder, the return game was pedestrian. Good coverage on punts and kicks, and Ja'Kouri Williams forced a fumble.

GRADE: C



Coaching

Game balls definitely go to John Chavis and his defense. Sound game plan and preparation. Two interceptions were direct result of scheme.

UT's offense was 7 of 15 on third-down conversions and yardage was balanced. Offensive scores came on four drives of 10 plays or more. Coach Phillip Fulmer's fourth-down gamble in third quarter led to TD.

GRADE: A-



FINAL GPA: 2.77



While the first half was very pedestrian, the third quarter touchdown drive got the team and the crowd going and Tennessee was able to roll from there. Fulmer's fourth down gamble could be a turning point in the season if the wins keep coming.

Still lots of room for improvement but Tennessee was able to play well against a physical opponent. However, the Crimson Tide are next. I am anxious to see what the Vols can do.

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