This just in: My two friends in Starkpatch agree. Mississippi State fully expects to dump more misery on Tennessee come Saturday. Both asked if cowbells are admissible at Neyland Stadium. I advised caution.
The previous Bulldogs were impressive. There never was much doubt that they would win. If the incoming Bulldogs are actually confident, I understand. They have seen what you have seen. The Volunteers are not very good. They beat Georgia for a few minutes but gave up 33 unanswered points.
Young quarterback Brian Maurer provided a spark, hit a home-run throw and zipped some darts through narrow openings – in the first half. Receivers noticed and responded with extra effort.
Later in the evening, Maurer looked more like a freshman quarterback in his first start – against the No. 3 team in the country.
Jarrett Guarantano and I felt for him when the unblocked blitzing corner landed a direct hit and hurt Brian’s chest and his feelings. The ball popped out and went running off the other direction for 60 yards. It was a humbling finish to what was a part-good day.
Guarantano has been there and endured such mistreatment. Incidentally, I salute his team attitude and the support he gave Maurer.
I felt for the Tennessee defensive front, too. For too much of the time, it got mauled, pushed around and stepped on.
Some thought the Vols looked better on defense than in the three previous losses. They did make a couple of emotional stops. Three Georgia threats were squeezed down to field goals. And, Georgia punted twice.
Alas, the Vols gave up 526 yards. The 63-in-50-seconds just before intermission, chop, chop, chop, was an awesome display. The Bulldogs went six for six in the red zone. If this had been boxing, the referee might have stopped the fight.
On the methodical, 10-play put-away drive in the fourth quarter, the visitors were overwhelming.
From beginning to end, Tennessee failed to apply pressure on Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm. He completed 24 of 29 for 288 and two touchdowns. For the most part, he stood secure in the pocket, surveyed the field, selected a target and delivered on time. I’m not sure he even needed a post-game shower.
He felt pretty good about the show. He sang a celebratory version of Rocky Top.
Pressured? Freshman Quavaris Crouch once got around Fromm’s legs and Darrell Taylor landed one hit. That says superb protection or not much rush. It again made me wonder about the defensive scheme. Whatever it was, it didn’t work.
I am also left to wonder about the offense. I thought I saw some actual Jim Chaney influence for part of the first half – but, if there was a running attack, I did not recognize it. The Vols netted 70 yards rushing. Tim Jordan was most effective but that was long after the crowd headed home.
Eric Gray gained five yards on five carries.
It is not easy to turn a lopsided loss to a Southeastern Conference East Division measuring stick into a moral victory but I will try.
Oh, wait, Jeremy Pruitt doesn’t believe in participation ribbons.
“Nobody is looking for a pat on the back for playing hard, right? I’m not.”
Well, here are limited congratulations but don’t tell the coach. Leave him to ponder his eighth loss by more than 25 points in just 17 games.
Tennessee, again, did not quit.
People who had not previously done much, Darel Middleton for example, tried to get Georgia runners on the ground.
Tennessee mistakes were a measurable factor in Georgia’s success. Several big gains were attributed to missed tackles and at least one severe secondary bust. I keep saying coaching could cure this.
Maurer’s bomb to Marquez Callaway was beautiful. He, indeed, showed promise. I don’t think it was beginner’s luck. He appears quick mentally and fearless. That is good but also dangerous until he learns more.
He did make receivers look better (or maybe it was the other way around). The Vol gladiator, Jauan Jennings, had seven receptions for 114 yards. Callaway made three catches for 105.
Austin Pope is a really good blocker with a positive-plus attitude. He is not so good at assessing results.
“The score doesn’t depict, really, how we feel,” said Pope.
He got me with his next line: “I thought it was overall a really good game.”
Losing can be habit-forming. Tennessee last looked good last Nov. 10. It did not look good against Missouri, Vanderbilt, shocking upstart Georgia State, Brigham Young, Florida or Georgia. Chattanooga doesn’t count.
If losing goes on too long, it can seriously affect the future. The emergence of the freshman quarterback probably won’t scare away the star commitment of the 2020 recruiting class, Marietta quarterback Harrison Bailey.
The lack of significant team improvement might make Bailey nervous and cause him to look around.
It is difficult to transform losing into a recruiting positive. It is almost impossible to change a losing culture without very good recruiting.
Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is [email protected].