September 19, 2011
Gainesville, FL… Recent history echoed through the spanish moss as Tennessee again rolled into the swamp with high expectations fueled by week 1 and 2 performances against non-conference opponents. Montana and Cincinnati only provided the Vols with a false sense of grandeur and confidence that was quickly set fire to by a high tempo SEC offense by the Florida Gators in the first couple opening drives. Obvious differences between the Vols and Gators offensive lines showed quickly as Tyler Bray was under considerably more pressure from the Gator defense during the entire game while John Brantley seemed considerable less hurried and more comfortable with plenty of pocket time to help the Gators excel early.
Going into the game, everyone was aware of another obvious problem of no running game yet it seem to take the coaching staff a considerable amount of time to abandon it. I’m not sure who thought that no running game against Montana and Cincinnati would someone mystically show with a top SEC rival. None the less, the Vols continue to try and run. Adding to this problem was the devestating loss of Justin Hunter to an apparent ACL injury early in the game giving the Vols only 1 proven receiver in Da’Rick Rogers. The Vols had to open up the passing game each time to widdle down the Gators lead but continuing to return to the run when possible. Then came James Stone! The Vols center who, for comfort reasons, made the decision prior to the season starting to start snapping the ball from his left hand to his right. I need someone to convince me that this was a GOOD decision!!! “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” but Stone’s sporadic snaps started to take a toll on the already taxed Vols offense.
While I believe that most Vol fans went into this game knowing it was going to be a loss, we still had optimism that the Vols could actually pull off an upset. Plagued by a 6 year drought against the Gators, the Vols are certainly due to start turning the tide against Florida but clearly aren’t there yet as the “oh we’ll get them next year” talk begins. Will we? Considering that it was 2003 and 2004 in the Fulmer and Eric Ainge era that brought us back to back wins against Florida (Has it been THAT long?) including one in the swamp, it could be another 2-3 years before Derek Dooley gets the program up to par with the SEC. Also considering that this was also a Florida team with problems of its own on the offensive side of the ball does cause one to worry if the Vols will ever catch back up to the SEC elite.
With good recruiting classes following the Weasel and Dooley, do the Vols just lack the gameplan to put all these weapons into action? What’s the fix for a non-existent running game and a passing attack missing one of its largest producers? The Vols have open week next week then Buffalo to give them some healing and planning time before the feared “Octoberfeast” begins ushering in Georgia, LSU, Alabama, and South Carolina.
Here’s hoping for the best and grimacing against what might actually happen!! GO VOLS!!