As always, brought to you with minimal statistical analysis or video review. Just a few minutes of ESPN’s Penn State Final with Rece, Lou, and Mark, an occasional check of my Twitter feed, and Bill Vickery feeding me talking points via 103.7 The Buzz for three hours on the drive back home. Beverage of choice was Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey mixed with some combination of Sprite, Ginger Ale, or Red Bull, depending on who had last fixed a drink out of our cooler and not finished off their mixer. This is why the 7.5 oz cans of Sprite are ingenious, but I digress.
Let’s get to it.
Allow me to open by saying that our very own jesus makes quite possibly the best brisket on the planet. Seriously, melt in your mouth good. Maybe it’s the kosher beef. Maybe it’s the sauce. Maybe it’s because he can turn one pound and four buns into a meal feeding 50. I don’t know, but it’s awesome, awesome stuff. Thanks, wackmessiah.
I’m glad that our band got their new uniforms at $350 a pop so they could look exactly like they did before they got their new uniforms at $350 a pop. To the donor who ponied up most of the dough whose name I forgot, kudos to you. To the poor senior whose name did not get called on Senior Night, well, at least you got to play in your new $350 uniform. Although, truthfully, I was secretly hoping you’d rip it off, slam down your trombone on the 45, and scream “Four years of my life to get skipped on Senior Night? F THIS. DICK IN A SCREEN DOOR, W. DALE. I’m out this bitch.”
I cannot believe it, but Long and crew have somehow come full circle on the score update front, to the point that they are up there TOO MUCH. Sometimes during timeouts I want to check the scoreboard for statistics, and every time I glanced last night, I managed to catch the score of the Penn State game for the fifth, sixth, or seventh time. Watched that one at the tailgate, thanks. But I’d love to know how many yards rushing we have. While we’re on that (and I have mentioned it before), we could at least give one audible announcement of pertinent scores. There was a good cheer when folks saw that Boise went down. It would have been an eruption had they announced the score, followed by the Texas score.
Before somebody opens their trap about my bitching, allow me to say it feels freaking great to be nitpicking. The distance that our gameday experience has come in the past year is comparable to the distance that the football program at Tennessee as a whole has fallen.
So, I know that Bobby wants the ball to start the game, but I really prefer getting it to start the second half. I always have, due to the potential opportunity to score 14 points without your opponent getting much of a chance to answer. Factor in our propensity for slow starts on offense, and I really feel like it presents our team with the best chance for not wasting a possession.
Even though Tennessee moved the ball easily on their opening drive, you could see early that they were overmatched. Play calls were iffy in spots, Worley was never comfortable in the pocket, and outside of that wraparound draw that had some success, their traditional running game never got off the ground. Wasn’t Poole the last player to go for 100 against Alabama? He was completely ineffective last night. A couple of big runs out of the Wildcat formation, but never enough to become a concern because we could run them down even if they got behind us. To put it succinctly, Tennessee NEVER dictated what happened when they had the football. Our defense did.
One thing that was concerning was the success Tennessee had in getting to the perimeter. We did a GREAT job on one-on-one tackling, and that kept all of those jet sweeps nullified. But Ross Rasner being the only thing standing in the way of a touchdown is pretty disconcerting to me. The Vols were so late in snapping the ball on those jet sweeps that our ends had a hard time even stringing the play out. Thank God we were fundamentally sound last night. I imagine we’ll see a lot of the same thing next week, and I hope we can repeat last night’s performance.
On a similar vein, misdirection still scares the hell out of me with our defense.
Tramain Thomas is somebody that I’d like to apologize to. He’s made his usual season’s worth of big plays that have gotten overshadowed by the few but glaring plays he’s taken off. Certainly he deserves the blame for the moments he disappeared or shirked his responsibility, but he has made some HUGE plays throughout the year, and came through again last night. If he is a step late on that interception, we’re going to halftime at 21-14 and it’s potentially a completely different ballgame.
Highsmith, Bennett, and Mitchel all played huge last night. It was Senior Night, but we saw PLENTY to be excited about for the future.
Was that Tyler’s most pedestrian performance this year? There really wasn’t anything spectacular that he did that stood out to me. Okay, the 40-yard touchdown pass to Adams was 100% on the money, but that was really it. There were some glaring misses, but no really bad decisions that stood out. The wind was hell, and a few got away from him. Make no mistake, though, that was a game manager’s performance in a game where a Top 10 team just overmatched an inferior opponent. He was A.J. McCarron last night. Strangely… it feels kind of good.
Wingo is running harder, you guys. Could the light be coming on at long last? I refuse to get excited just yet. Been fooled so many times before.
Gragg had a quiet evening. Still showed up to block, though. He is going to be HUGE next year.
Joe’s return and Jarius’ catch. I mean, what can you say? So happy for those two to close their Razorback Stadium careers like they did. Also, they got open so frequently on THE SAME PLAY that a couple of Tyler’s poor throws could actually be attributed to his hesitation at trying to hit the most open receiver. UT’s secondary was baaaaad, or at least we made them appear so.
After Peacock’s hold stalled a promising drive, Grant Cook laid into his ass for a good 30 yards as they ran to the sidelines. As soon as they got there, an assistant coach picked up where Cook left off and continued for another minute or two. Peacock is going to learn not to screw up, or he’s going to get tired of the ass chewings. Petrino isn’t the only one doling them out on this squad. I love to SEE leadership, and not just read about it.
Remember when we were calling for John L’s head? Seems pretty silly right now. Not only going off of how we look, but comparing us to other teams, we have become better-than-average at special teams. We’re good. It’s an advantage. How long has it been?
We are a different team at home. That’s crazy to say, but it’s true. Razorback Stadium has become a home field advantage. An intimidating environment. And a change in the culture is taking place. The fans are active, engaged, and, increasingly, bloodthirsty. When UT went for it on their own 40 and failed to convert, 70,000 would have come unglued if we had NOT gone for the jugular. Up 21 and we want to be 28. Up 28 and we want to be up 42. We want ALL of our seniors to score on Senior Night. We want 400 yards passing AND 200 yards rushing. You’ve created a monster, Bobby Petrino, same as Nolan Richardson. We learned our lesson from that deal, I hope, and I hope you recognize that what you envisioned and Hog fans dreamt about four years ago is starting, starting, to become reality. Thank you.
So, we’re 9-1. How did THAT happen? Weren’t we getting embarrassed by Alabama last week? Struggling with Ole Miss yesterday? Turns out, we’ve been improving while we all bitched at our lack of progress. Tennessee wasn’t good, or even close to it, but we DOMINATED them. I left at the end of the third quarter at a game against Tennessee, because the score was so out of hand on OUR favor. Because I wanted to get back to the tailgate and watch other games to see how it affected our chance at playing for the national championship. This was Week 11, y’all. And people are talking about the chance. People in Bristol, not Fayetteville or Little Rock.
And we may not even be a great team.