Brian Rice’s Points After: Alabama

By Brian Rice

I never really fully understood the phrase “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,“ until I committed myself to doing this post game wrap up column every week.

It really seemed like a good idea at the time. No matter how this season unfolded, it was sure at least be entertaining. The first game was great example of that. But here we are after the Alabama game, me facing the reality of having watch the game again to write this now I want to punch August me in the face for agreeing to do this.

I will say this about the game. After watching Tennessee last three weeks, that’s probably about as good as this team is capable of doing against Alabama. I could go on and on about that not being good enough in the grand scheme of things, but you know that already. The fact that Alabama does this to everyone does not make it any more OK when they do it to Tennessee.

The only real positive of the game was Daniel Bituli’s interception and subsequent return for a touchdown. It’s a positive for a lot of reasons obviously, I think the biggest is that it was only the second turnover for Alabama all season. It also allowed Tennessee to find its way back to that magical, mystical area known as the “end zone.” It was a place Tennessee nearly visited again later in the game, but more on that later.

I was happy for the defense, this game is yet another example of a recent string of games defense was good enough to win or at least take the game into the second half. But the offense’s ineptitude prevented that from happening and the defense ended up with a number on the scoreboard much larger than their performance should have produced.

I can’t even be mad at Rashaan Gaulden’s double-barreled bird towards the Alabama fans. It wasn’t a penalty when an Alabama player did it to Tennessee fans last year, but they were looking for Saturday, it was a penalty. He apologized for it after the game, as he should have. But it encapsulated everything that Tennessee fans have felt about Alabama, both this year and in years past.

We are tired, we are frustrated, we are hungry for anything good happen in this series. It doesn’t matter to me that you were still down three touchdowns after it happened. I love that somebody showed emotion. I don’t love that Alabama score 20 more points after it happened.

The New Hope Continues. Kind of.

Jarrett Guarantano is the perfect spark that the offense has needed. Against a defense put up by any other SEC school, you would’ve had a fair amount of success Saturday.

The consistent theme around college football this season is that if you don’t have a quarterback, you’re not going to be successful. Having a successful quarterback go down due to injury has cost Florida State their entire season and it cost Clemson embarrassing loss at Syracuse. With Guarantano, I think Tennessee has something they can work with at quarterback.

Something to work with, that is, if the offensive line can provide some kind of resistance to the opponent’s pass rush. Even against Alabama’s vaunted secondary, Tennessee had receivers that were getting open. But by the time they flash open, Guarantano has two or three defenders ready to wrap him up. Even from the shotgun, he doesn’t have time to survey even half the field before he’s running for his life or on the turf.

We can complain about the offense and the playcalling and Butch Jones and all of that. All of that is fair and warranted at this point. But no offense is going to have any semblance of success when one or more defenders leave the offensive line flat footed. Time after time, linebackers and defensive lineman ran free in our backfield. It’s like everyone that plays on the line other than Trey Smith is allergic to blocking guys wearing different colored uniforms.

Is it talent? Is it effort? Is it coaching? Probably some of all of it. Whatever the root cause is, the other factors don’t help. They get blown off the ball, sometimes they look lost, and they continue to make mental mistakes that cost you one sack or 5-yard penalty at a time.

Though it was against the Alabama back ups, Tennessee was able to put together a pretty nice drive late in the game. They even remembered that John Kelly was on the team inside the 20 yard line. Progress. Or so we thought.

Though they lined up in the shotgun, which I frustratingly watched as dozens of other teams did on Saturday as well, they have two shots to get one yard after Kelly’s touchdown was overturned on review.

What happened next was as predictable as a teen melodrama on The CW. False start pushes them back five yards, they run for no gain, young quarterback makes a bad read and gets fooled into throwing the ball right at a defender. Clockwork. Like the hot girl and the jock boyfriend having a fight right before it’s time to tell you what’s coming up next week on The CW Tuesday night.

Don’t sully the name of One Tree Hill. Every week for eight years Sophia Bush and Hillarie Burton made the greatest argument for high definition television ever.

Hey, I found another positive.


Now Tennessee goes to Kentucky as an underdog for the second time since the 1970s. In that other game, my cohost’s 2007 Vols were, according to Vegas insider, inexplicably a three-point underdog and ended up as a 52-50 when in four overtimes. If Tennessee scores 52 points on Saturday, I’ll personally walk to Lexington and ask Mark Stoops how you allow that to happen.

Or I could probably meet him halfway, because if this Kentucky team gave up 52 to this Tennessee offense, Kentucky fans will be running Mark out of town and he has to pass through Knoxville on his way to his brother’s new Florida mansion anyway.

It continues to baffle me how, since 2005, Tennessee is not capable of fielding a team that has simultaneously a good offense and a good defense. Roll this defense out last year, and Tennessee is 11-1 in the regular season and in the SEC Championship Game. Put this defense with the 2012 team and even Derek Dooley looks like a competent coach.

As it is, Marco’s Pizza is making a killing off of my football depression.

Brian Rice’s blog is brought to you by GolfTec. Swing better, play better at GolfTec.



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