Well, it was about time

Marvin Westwestwords

You could say “It was about time.”

Or, you could say “Tennessee hasn’t lost a game in several days.”

Or, you could say “Those young quarterbacks are the beginning of better times.”

Just don’t get carried away. It was Vanderbilt. The winless Commodores are clearly worse than the Volunteers.

That said, here’s my tip of the cap to Vandy for showing up. The Commodores could have declared helplessness and spent the late afternoon studying quantum physics or whatever academic giants do in free time.

This is a really bad period for them. The coach is gone and several players were missing for various reasons. The defense was short-handed but no less courageous. At full strength, it always has less firepower than Tennessee. This time the edge was obvious. The Vols scored 42.

There was a historical happening: Sarah Fuller kicked two extra points for Vanderbilt, first scores for a woman in the big time. She received enthusiastic congratulations. One of the footballs will soon be on display at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

From the orange point of view, the summation is simple: This was a good day in a sad season. Tennessee won a game. The Vols accumulated 540 yards of offense. The fake punt worked. A tight end (Princeton Fant) caught a touchdown pass. Younger players played more. Did I mention that Tennessee won a game – just 70 days after the previous victory?

The other best thing was the gosh-awful losing streak was snuffed out just before it became a world record. The Vols are projected to start a new one Saturday against Texas A&M.

There was a little sing-a-long in the post-game dressing room but no Tennessee celebration of significance, no threat to the goal posts, no victory lap, no Rocky Top playing on and on, into the night.

In truth, not much has changed. Tennessee is 3-6. Phillip Fulmer has not yet declared Jeremy Pruitt will survive and be the coach again next year. The athletics director will get around to that. Borrowing for buyouts and launching another coaching search would be an open admission that he made the wrong pick.

In truth 2, there is a sliver of hope. Harrison Bailey can complete short passes (14 of 18 for 207). Yardage was inflated. Velus Jones Jr. broke a tackle and ran 74 with one.

J.T. Shrout woke up the echoes and was the winning pitcher in the second quarter. He delivered two touchdown passes. He has a stronger arm but is still learning the meaning of different colored shirts.

Believe it or not, Vanderbilt was ahead for a while. Bryce Thompson solved that little problem with a one-handed interception and a crafty, determined return for a touchdown. After that, Shrout threw TD passes to the veteran Jones and freshman Jalin Hyatt. Game decided, 28-10 at intermission.

Jones, semi-famous transfer, has been officially discovered. He caught seven for 125 and two scores. I do believe I heard Tee Martin, his former coach at Southern Cal, saying “I told you so.”

Tennessee deployed Brian Maurer for one play, a planned quarterback run. He gained 22 and got hurt.

Tennessee’s substitute place kicker, Toby Wilson, a man from Brentwood, did not flinch in the absence of kicking star Brent Cimaglia, sidelined or retired. Toby kicked six extra points.

Tennessee finally got a brief look at freshman Dee Beckwith. In high school at Florence, Ala., Demarcus was a basketball standout and wildcat quarterback, running back, wide receiver, safety and linebacker in football. UT coaches thought he would be a big receiver.

Dee wants to be the big running back the team needs. There is no question about the “big” part. He is 6-5 and about 230. He had two carries for 24 yards.

Paxton Brooks punted like a Colquitt and looked like Peyton Manning on the fake punt and pass. Linebacker Henry To’o To’o caught it and looked like he knew precisely what he was doing. The play gained 31 yards.

“Ain’t nothin’ like touching the ball as a defensive guy.”

The former high school running back made 10 tackles, his primary assignment. Henry was often in the way of Vandy’s so-called ground game. It averaged 1.7 yards per rushing attempt.

Strange play: A missed block allowed an edge rusher to break in on Bailey and hit his throwing arm. The ball landed 10 yards away. Teammates looked at it as an incomplete pass. Officials didn’t blow a whistle. Vandy recovered.

Pruitt praised the team victory and declined a share of the credit.

“The losses are about me and the wins are about the players. I didn’t play any plays.”

Pruitt is clearly focused on the future.

“We’ve got a really young team, and the way they practice and compete, they’re going to improve and get better.”

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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