The InsideTennessee.com staff give you our thoughts following the Georgia loss. Check back each week as we give you our post game take.
Josh Woodward’s thoughts
First off, we have talked about how Jim Chaney abandoned the run most games, well hats off to Chaney for calling a balanced offense. The Vols' balanced attack kept fighting till the very end. Georgia's plan was to take Justin Hunter out of the game and the rest of the offense stepped up. The offensive line didn't give up a sack and gave Tyler Bray plenty of time throughout the game. You didn't hear much about Jarvis Jones today, did you? Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane ran well between the tackles and didn't let go of the football. Anytime an offense scores 44 points against an SEC defense, it has been a good day. The Vols just came up a little short at the end.
Defensively, the Big Orange had problems. They were slow at corner and the outside linebackers did not contain the edges well. You will continue to see teams exploit these weaknesses to beat Tennessee this year until they can prove otherwise. When Georgia had big plays, Tennessee either missed a tackle or couldn't catch up to the ball carrier. Bryon Moore continues to play well as does Daniel McCullers. I would play McCullers as many snaps as he can handle. LaDarrell McNeil saw plenty of action tonight - he likely played himself into a starting role.
Well, not much to say about the kickers other than good grief. They couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a bass fiddle. There comes a time when you just can't get any worse. For these kids, I hope this is rock bottom. If I'm Tennessee, I'm watching some 2013 kickers in the FOXSportsNEXT.com database. The return game and coverage was excellent and did not give up a big play.
Special Teams: C (this grade is this high because of coverage and return game)
Randy Moore's thoughts
On a day when the defense was a no-show and special teams was guilty of a blocked punt, a missed PAT and a missed chip-shot field goal, Tennessee's offense almost upset the No. 5 team in college football all by itself.
Except for a 35-yard "pick six" interception return by Byron Moore in the first quarter, Tennessee's defense was pitiful, surrendering 538 yards and 51 points through the first three quarters. Vol defenders recorded four three-and-outs in the fourth quarter but the damage was done by then.
Tennessee's run blocking was the best it has been against a quality opponent since 2007. This allowed Rajion Neal to run for 104 yards on 23 carries. Georgia did manage to get some pressure on Tyler Bray, who completed 24 of 45 passes for 281 yards but coughed up a fumble and three interceptions.
Defense: F+ (the + is for the pick-six)
Special Teams: D
Danny Parker's thoughts
At times, it was hard to tell which Southeastern Conference team was the one ranked No. 5 in the country and which was thirsty for its first victory over a ranked opponent under its current head coach.
Like a pair of prize fighters that refused to stay on the canvas, Georgia and Tennessee laid what should have been knockout blows upon one another several times Saturday afternoon in Sanford Stadium.
A Volunteer offense that kept the showdown from getting out of hand sputtered with three straight turnovers with it a one-score game late. A slow start and early deficit quickly turned into a tie ballgame when Tennessee safety Byron Moore returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown. Both sides of the ball picked up the other in spite of a roller-coaster performance by each.
Netting 197 yards against Georgia coordinator Todd Grantham's defense is no ordinary feat. Nor is Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney sticking with the ground attack down multiple scores on several occasions. Both are a clear step forward for the Big Orange.
As I said weeks ago, finding elite speed in the back end of the defense is an absolute must. People can point to alignment and communication all they want, but the Vols simply can't run down even average Div. I skill players. Brent Brewer is not a safety and needs to stick with linebacker in clear passing situations. Contrary to what Derek Dooley said after the game, LaDarrell McNeil was in and missed a tackle on one of Georgia's big-time plays. The loss of Brian Randolph is going to continue to burn until something is figured out.
Shanking yet another extra point and a chip shot field goal really burned. A week after Derrick Brodus looked like he's figured things out, the Vols are back to Square 1 deciding on a placekicker.
Special Teams: C-
Riley Blevins’ thoughts
Perhaps the one criticism atop the Vols ongoing list of failures is its inability to respond to adversity. As expected, adversity faced the Vols Saturday. But unlike previous games, Tennessee responded.
Faced with a 27-10 defict with 11:48 remaining in the second quarter, the Volunteers forced back-to-back Georgia turnovers en route to tallying 20 unanswered points to put the halftime score at a 30-30 tie.
The start of the second half was a spitting image of the first. The Bulldogs exploded out of the gates, holding a 43-30 lead midway through the second quarter. But again, the Volunteer would respond. Behind a balanced offensive attack that saw the Vols attempt 45 passes and 40 rushes, Tennessee came within seven points of the lead before a Tyler Bray fumble ended any upset hopes.
Offensively, dropped passes plagued the Vols air-attack once more. Rajion Neal let a Bray pass flutter to the turf after it hit him in between the numbers in the Vols’ key fourth quarter drive. Cordarrelle Patterson also dropped a touchdown pass in the second quarter.
The Vols’ bright spot on offense was its commitment to the running game. The Vols were three yards shy of combining for 200 total rushing yards. Rajion Neal fronted Tennessee’s rushing attack, eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the second straight contest.
Defensively, big plays running plays hurt the Vols. Tennessee allowed Georgia to score on runs of 75, 72 and 51 yards. The Bulldogs tallied 282 rushing yards and averaged 7.2 yards per carry.
Special Teams: D