Tennessee returned (finally) to the victory circle Saturday, with a slow but steady 24-10 win over the Golden Eagles of Southern Miss. Here are some points of interest:
#EmptyNeyland Fails: A fan initiative, supported by some prominent voices across the Vol fanscape and media, to stage a boycott Saturday failed miserably. Butch Jones being in his final days as UT’s head coach is no secret. In spite of that, some wanted to “send a message” to AD John Currie, in hopes of forcing him to officially pull the plug on Butch’s time at Tennessee. Though there were moments before the game when it looked like the boycott would happen, an announced attendance of 95,551 closed the book on #EmptyNeyland. Initiatives like this, even as failures, are a significantly bad look for Tennessee fans, in the eyes of recruits and ESPECIALLY in the eyes of potential coaches.
McBride The Lightning: Tennessee’s injury bug has decimated the OL, and that naturally then resulted in the bug biting Redshirt Freshman Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. The Vols’ starter sustained some sort of right leg injury on his ankle or shin. Will McBride (who originally was on course to redshirt) was sent in to shoulder the Vols offense. Initially, Guarantano returned after only 3 plays, sending #VolsTwitter into an emotional spiral, calling for Butch’s job for sending in Tennessee’s best available QB into a 10-3 game. It was the correct call. McBride didn’t have a stuffed stat line, but he displayed a clear confidence and poise while operating the Vols offense. McBride would play the entire second half and looked calm and prepared, a stark contrast to Guarantano’s first real snaps, where he looked stiff, erratic, and frightened. Bottom line, if JG’s leg injury is serious, nobody is freaking out. McBride looks like a little-to-no drop off in talent for the Vols.
You Just Don’t: One of the glaring issues that will, at some point in the immediate future, cost Butch Jones his job is his apparent ignorance to really basic game management. A repeat offense in each of Tennessee’s wins over grossly outmatched teams is: if the game is under control, take John Kelly out of the game. Unlike most positions on the Tennessee roster, Tennessee is very deep at running back. John Kelly is a player who can (and has) put the Vols on his back, and Tennessee is going to need him to salvage 2017 into a bowl game destination. Why then, with excellent backups who (besides Ty Chandler) need the snaps, would you have John Kelly on the field, flirting with injury, in a game you’re winning 24-3? Spoiler alert: there’s no good answer. Little head-scratchers like this are why this administration will be gone soon.
Dirty Birds: There was a point Saturday when Southern Mississippi was leading Tennessee, 115-0, in penalty yards. That’s a good way to keep from winning. It is worth mentioning that the “leaping penalty,” on a late Aaron Medley field goal attempt, was absolute trash. That said, the rest of USM’s 5,000 penalties were totally correct. The 2017 Vols are quite talented at finding ways to lose, but it is very hard to lost to that much sloppy defense.
The Vols will head to Missouri next weekend for another night game against a Tigers team that throttled Florida on Saturday.