I know you probably won’t believe me now, but as of halftime, I really did not have any doubt in this game. At the half, it felt exactly like the Vandy game two years ago that I attended with the band. We were down by a field goal at the half, but it didn’t feel like the game was out of our control. I knew we’d come out on top at the end. Tennessee scored in the first half thanks to a trick play and blown coverage. They couldn’t run, and there’s only so many passes you can complete in a row.
It was nice to see Urban pick a running back and stick with him, and DeShawn Wynn really rewarded him. Wynn and Dallas Baker were the offensive MVPs this game. Wynn showed that he can be the undisputed top back, and Baker had two TD catches along with did some excellent blocking this game. Percy Harvin had only one catch and one rush, just like I thought. Meyer knows that you have to rely on your veterans in big road games, and Baker, Andre Caldwell, and Jemalle Cornelius combined for 10 catches, 133 yards, and three touchdowns. Wynn also wore down the Tennessee defense even if he didn’t gain yards on every run, and was essential in making UT respect the run even late in the game.
Leak had a few bad plays (the intentional grounding comes to mind), but he remained poised and delivered the winning touchdown pass. The interception return for a score that got called back was a plain bad throw, but the personal foul on the play was a good makeup call for the “block in the back” (that was a block in the shoulder) on Brandon James’ return for a score. Tebow had some nice runs, but he is still far too raw to be a starter. I’ve already heard one person call for Tebow to start since the end of the game, but he left early from the UCF game when Tebow’s flaws were exposed. He can’t read college defenses yet, and he’s too careless with the ball. Still, for short yardage runs, he’s a big hoss who can pick up first downs. But that’s all he is for now.
Some of the play calling was did concern me. For one, they insist on using five wide receiver sets regularly. Unless it’s on the goal line and Leak is getting rid of it immediately like what yielded a score, the line can’t protect Leak long enough to be effective. Also, putting Tim Tebow in the game basically telegraphs a QB run. At least he is bigger than Josh Portis so he can run over people, but no one will be fooled whatsoever. They also ran too much. I know that you have to use the run to open up the pass, and that Urban was on a crusade this week to out-tough Tennessee, but with how weak UT’s secondary is they should have tried to exploit them more.
The defense did about the best it could. It’s not going to get any better than that. Tennessee could not get any running game going, which is thanks to the beastly defensive line. However, the secondary is going to let teams get some easy throws all year. Reggie Nelson had two nice bookending interceptions (though if there’s more time in the game, he should have let the second one fall to get the Gators 20 yards back up the field), but teams will be able to throw the ball on Florida.
I must say that during Tennessee’s final drive, it was nice to see Phil Fulmer’s confused look again. I haven’t watched Tennessee that closely on TV probably since the 2002 game with Florida. It also was great to see Notre Dame, FSU, and Miami get exposed. The best play was when the Louisville receiver still-armed the Miami player in the face en route to scoring. Beautiful.
Also, if you’re counting at home, Oklahoma State won the “Who gets to beat up on FAU this week?” lotto and won by 40. Oklahoma suffered about as bad a loss as you can, and I really feel bad for them. Just a bad showing by the Pac-10 replay crew. Auburn and LSU are basically the same team, except that Brandon Cox will not make as many forced, bad decisions as JaMarcus Russell will. That was the difference in the game. USC looked good again, and Nebraska looks like they still have a way to go to get back to the elite. Tennessee is back though.
I am definitely feeling very good about the rest of this year. There’s no way Alabama can score enough to beat Florida at home. South Carolina is awful. So is FSU. JaMarcus Russell might give us the game on a silver platter. The box score tells me that Georgia doesn’t really trust Matt Stafford, even against UAB. Auburn remains the one game that seems more likely a loss than a win, though I am a bigger believer in LSU now that I was in the preseason. Tennessee and Georgia will lose at least two SEC games, which means UF can still drop the LSU and Auburn games and still go to Atlanta in December if the beat Georgia as they always do.
This was a huge win for Urban Meyer. He finally got a road win that’s not Kentucky. He is now 4-0 against the big three rivals. He also has control of the SEC East. They did what they needed to do to win, and there never was a sign of panic on the sideline or in the play calling from the booth. The offensive line and the secondary were concerns, and will be for the rest of the year. Still, it was a good win, a hard win, and a satisfying win.
If you’re counting at home, that’s more than 4400 words on college football between 10:00 AM yesterday and now. That’s what I call a good day.