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Reviewing Tennessee: Why We Won and Other Thoughts

It wasn't the prettiest or most exciting game of football ever played, but in the end we defeated the Vols by a historically large margin, so it's hard to complain too much. Hats go off to an incredible game by our defense and special teams. Tennessee obviously doesn't have a great offense, but we held the Vols to 6 points, 207 total yards and forced two huge turnovers against them. That's an incredible performance against any team.

Our special teams play was also very good. Succop was 2-2, Culliver had a fantastic return, Spencer Lanning had several good punts and punt coverage was fantastic, and we recovered a muffed punt--essentially, about as good a performance as you can hope for from the special teams units.

Our offense didn't play the best game I've ever seen, but they weren't bad. We moved the ball well at times in the first half. Garcia unquestionably brings great things to this offense--his play during the first TD drive was gutsy and reflected the fact that he can simply do things that Chris Smelley can't. Our offensive line play and running game didn't look incredible, but we did see a modicum of improvement, and that against a good defense. There's reason to hope that we can do these things better than we did against LSU, although the unfortunate injury to Jeanpierre may stall our progress on the line.

Some will point to the low total yards and say that we didn't do great on offense, but (1) our defense gave us a short field quite often and (2) Spurrier was content in the second half to run the ball a lot and bleed the clock. I'm usually in favor of being more aggressive with a 3 TD second-half lead, but considering the way our defense was playing and the fact that the Vols' offense was completely anemic all night (their best two or three plays were complete flukes, by the way), as well as that we were without our starting QB for much of the second half, it's safe to say that the Ol' Ball Coach made the right move. Overall, a good but not great offensive performance.

These are all things to be very happy about, so I hate to bring negativity to a positive post. However, I think it's worth saying that the officiating tonight was absolutely, completely atrocious. First of all, whatever the SEC wants to do with him, Wilbur Hackett should not have been in Williams-Brice tonight. What happened last week was suspicious enough that the SEC needs to protect it's integrity by keeping him away from Carolina games, but they didn't. Second of all, the zebras made numerous questionable calls and almost all of them went against us. Among them: not reviewing the play where Jonathan Crompton possibly fumbled, the PI on Brinkley that set up the UT TD, several questionable spots, and last but not least, the Volunteer DE going offsides on the play when Garcia threw an interception and later was hurt along with Lemuel. The last of these was probably the worst, because someone HAD to have seen that guy go offsides. I'm not into conspiracy theories and don't think the refs are out to get us. In fact, I thought the refs treated us quite well when we played Ole Miss. But seriously: can the SEC not do any better than this? It seems like every week there's a game that stands out for the sheer idiocy of the officiating. We deserve better as fans than to have to watch this baloney!

To end on a more positive note, though, this was a great win. We completely dominated a Volunteer team that we've only rarely beaten. Absolutely ran them off the field. Tennessee isn't good this year, but the way we took care of business against them was impressive. We're also now bowl eligible, and with winnable games against Arkansas and Clemson remaining, our goal of 8 wins is looking more likely by the week. The injuries to Garcia and Jeanpierre are a cause for concern, but Spurrier said after the game that Garcia is OK and could have come back in if the game had been in doubt. As for Jeanpierre, we can only hope that his injury isn't too serious, that he gets on the road to a good recovery for next year, and that someone can step in for him and play well for us. All in all: a good night to be a Gamecock.