COLUMBIA, S.C. — InsideTennessee.com staff give you our thoughts following the South Carolina loss. Check back each week as we give you our post game take.
Randy Moore's Thoughts
When your defense gives up touchdown plays of 33, 26, 28 and 24 yards you aren't going to beat a good football team. Tennessee gave up those plays Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium against a good South Carolina team and suffered a 38-35 setback as a result.
Tennessee's coaches get a lot of money and Tennessee's players get a lot of recognition but I feel for them. This was a game the Vols could've won ... probably should've won. But, as always seems to happen when the Big Orange is facing a quality foe, the opponent made key plays in the clutch and the Vols didn't.
Gamecock superstar Jadeveon Clowney, held in check by Tiny Richardson for 58 minutes, forced a Tyler Bray fumble with 1:08 left that Shaq Wilson recovered at SC's 20-yard line. Tennessee got the ball back with 47 seconds left but 5-foot-10 Carolina cornerback Victor Hampton beat 6-foot-4 Vol Justin Hunter for a jump ball at the Gamecock 38-yard line to seal the deal.
Bray missed some open receivers early but finished 27 of 43 for 368 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tailback Marlin Lane (15 carries, 56 yards) ran hard and wideout Zach Rogers (6 catches, 107 yards, 3 TDs) was unconscious. Except for a couple of short punts, Tennessee's special-teams play was solid. When your defense provides only token resistance, however, it's awfully hard to beat an upper-echelon SEC team. The Vols seem to make every opposing quarterback look like Aaron Rodgers, and this week it was Connor Shaw (22 of 32 for 356 yards and 3 TDs) who passed them silly. Even with star running back Marcus Lattimore missing the game's final 35 minutes due to a leg injury, Carolina piled up 510 yards, made big plays when it needed them and kept the ball nearly 10 minutes longer than Tennessee. That was the story of the game.
Special Teams: B-
Chris Price's Thoughts
Well in the Southeastern Conference when you score 35 points you are suppose to be able to win football games, but Tennessee just can't. Sal Sunseri's defense is nothing short of terrible.
The secondary is the worst I have seen in some time, which is evident by all the substitutions, including Daniel Gray and Brent Brewer. When you have to pull a fifth-year season at the corner position, you have a BIG problem.
On offense, what can you say 472 yards of offense against a top-15 defense. What more can you do? Zach Rogers went nuts, Bray played his best game as a Volunteer and Chaney called a good game. What else can you do?
Stop them on defense once or twice and this game is in the bag. Couldn't do it. Third season in a row with an 0-5 start in the conference.
Special Teams: C
Danny Parker's thoughts
Call it snake bit. Call it a curse. Call it opponents simply making big-time plays in big-time situations. Whatever it is, it's not working for Tennessee and some pretty fantastic performances by the Volunteer offense are going to waste.
If somebody told Vol defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri that it would take South Carolina 46 carries to net 147 yards heading into Saturday, I'd imagine he'd take that and go to the house. If you also told him that a struggling Connor Shaw would erupt for 356 passing yards and three touchdowns, Sunseri would likely eat his hat.
No Eric Berry, no Deon Grant, no Dale Carter is coming to the rescue on the back end of that defense. It was refreshing to at least see a couple players (Daniel Gray, Rod Wilks) get opportunities.
Of course not all the blame goes on the defense. Some of what we are seeing is simply a sign of the times with the prolific offenses like the Vols'. Ball security murdered Tennessee in Athens, in Starkville and again today in Columbia. Who knows where the organization might be right now if those plays don't happen.
The special teams units were average. Michael Palardy put the defense in bad positions early in the game with his punting and continues to have a roller-coaster career as a Vol. He did make all five extra points and Ace Sanders returned one punt for 20 yards.
Special Teams: C
Josh Woodward's Thoughts
I really should copy and paste my IT’s Take from the Georgia game and just go from there, but today was a little different, South Carolina has a really good defense and Tennessee was able to move the ball really well. The defense is just not good in the secondary, not much you can say about that. We all need to say a little prayer for Marcus Lattimore that was one of the worst injuries I have ever seen on a football field.
Offensively, you can’t complain much, Tennessee was able to beat man coverage and get Justin Hunter the ball, Zach Rogers had a spectacular catch for a touchdown. The senior is playing extremely well. Tyler Bray stepped up this game and played well also, he had good protection all day until the end of the game when Clowney got free and caused the fumble. Tennessee still has to get Patterson the ball more, he is not running routes very well and Tennessee is starting to replace him on the field with Vincent Dallas. Patterson needs simple routes to work his magic.
The defense stunk in the first half; the secondary is beyond bad, I see to many mismatches on the linebackers. Daniel Gray made an appearance in the fourth quarter and played well, South Carolina didn’t even throw it his way. I would like to see him replace Waggner for the rest of the season. The defense line is playing fine, offenses can’t run up the middle against the Tennessee defense when big Dan McCullers is in the game.
I would like to rugby kick the coach who came up with that style kick, my goodness is that awful or is Tennessee just bad at it. Tennessee didn’t miss a field goal, which is a bright spot, oh wait they didn’t attempt one did they. Oh well. Just quit doing the rugby punting and I will be fine.
Special Teams: D