Improvement? Optimism? Careful now

Marvin WestFeature, westwords

Jeremy and I thought we saw some encouraging signs. As 26-point losses go, this wasn’t all that bad. Georgia has a good team.


Jeremy was more emotional than I am about the bit of progress. With this schedule, optimism is precarious. Beware of overloads.

An old friend, Oliver Holmes, reminded me that it has been a long time since Tennessee won a Southeastern Conference game. He was nice about it but he added that it may be awhile.

One of his best lines was that the Vols will have to learn all over again how to beat Vanderbilt. He also said a realistic goal for this season would be somehow beating the betting line for the Kentucky game.

I don’t know that I have ever heard Kentucky as a focal point.

Incremental improvement is hard to identify but even I saw Darrell Taylor apply some pressure on Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm. Unbelievable that Taylor caused a fumble that caused a touchdown.

Talk about bad luck: Taylor beat Isaac Nauta’s block. Nauta was a spectator as Fromm was mugged. The football popped free. Nauta picked it up and fled the scene. Amazing that the man who helped cause the problem solved it.

Tennessee’s defense never gave up the struggle. That may not be praise-worthy. The Vols are not supposed to quit, even when they give up 38 points and several hundred yards.

Tennessee’s offense contributed to defensive difficulties. Inability to make a few first downs forced the defense to spend an unfair amount of time in the fight. The late fumble cost an easy seven points and made the loss look a little worse than it was.

Jeremy and I were proud of the way Jarrett Guarantano hung in there. His toughness reminds me of Dewey Warren. He isn’t as good a quarterback as was the old Vol but Jarrett wasn’t gun-shy. He answered the call and took almost all the snaps.

Teammates mostly watched as the Florida Gators beat him up the week before. This was less bad because blockers were some better.

Oliver invoked the law of averages and assured me that if Tennessee continues to improve, it will likely win an SEC game sometime, maybe not this year, but eventually.

I reminded Oliver I am old. I asked how long, oh Lord, how long?

It won’t be this week. Defeating open date does not count. It may not be the following Saturday. Auburn is back in the top 10. Tennessee is 1-27 in the most recent 28 games against ranked opponents on the road. That is frightening.

The War Eagles are not overwhelming on offense but the defense is crusty. Like some other teams, Auburn is trying to develop an offensive line.

Auburn had only 96 rushing yards against Southern Mississippi. It was under 100 against anemic Arkansas. Coach Gus Malzahn said this was the worst back-to-back performances by a so-called rushing attack in his 14 years as a college coach.

Failure to run caused pass protection to get ugly. That or the three-hour weather delay caused the crowd to fade away. Now I ask you: Does that sound familiar?

No game this week is good. Coaches can spend more time on punt formation alignment. Perhaps you have noticed that no phase of Tennessee football is so good that it doesn’t need to get better.

Marvin West invites reader reaction. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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