Takeaways from No. 18 Tennessee’s loss to Georgia

No. 18 Tennessee (19-7, 9-5 SEC) experienced another upset Saturday night in a game against Georgia (15-11, 6-8). The Vols never held a sturdy lead at any point. Here are the takeaways from Tennessee’s 73-62 loss in Stegeman Coliseum.

Pretenders or contenders?

National and local media hyped up the Vols in recent weeks.

Some claimed the Vols could land a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament, but Tennessee hasn’t been performing well since the hype began.

After dropping a road game to Alabama, the Vols followed it up with a terrible loss in front of a sold out Georgia crowd. If Tennessee wants to be a contender and not a pretender, it will have to learn to win big conference road games.

Tennessee started the season hot, winning neutral-site games over Purdue and NC State, but if this team wants to be a top-3 seed, it will have to learn how to pull out rivalry wins.

Young Vols will learn to put pressure on opponents

Down two points with under five minutes to go in the second half, coach Rick Barnes was unimpressed with his team’s decision making.

The Vols elected to take a three-pointer instead of putting pressure on the Bulldogs.

“Some of those 3’s at the end of the game, we still have time,” Barnes said. “It’s just being selfish and not understanding the game. When a team misses the front end of a one-and-one … just go down and get a point back, opposed to trying to heave up a desperation shot.”

Although Barnes was upset with his young team, he praised the Bulldog’s effort and the way they played.

“Gotta give them credit, last five minutes of the game they beat us,” Barnes said. “Any way you wanna beat somebody, they beat us.”

This team needs a star, and Barnes has his pick

Grant Williams consistently anchors inside for this Tennessee squad, and Barnes holds the bar high for his sophomore forward.

“We’re gonna see if he’s the player he wants to be. This is the time of the year where key guys step up and they play,” Barnes said. “He wasn’t very good with his defensive coverage. He didn’t execute that the way we wanted him to.”

Williams posted only five points in 25 minutes on the night for Tennessee. The Bulldogs held Williams to 1-of-8 shooting and only four rebounds.

Kyle Alexander, on the other hand, anchored Tennessee on the night, posting his second career double-double with 10 points and 13 boards.

If Tennessee wants to make a deep run, it will need both Kyle Alexander and Grant Williams to show up in the same night.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee vs Georgia by the numbers

Revenge will be on the mind of the Georgia Bulldogs this Saturday in Athens after losing to the Tennessee Volunteers in 2015. The Vols look to remain undefeated on the season, while the Bulldogs will attempt to bounce back from an embarrassing loss to Ole Miss.

Tennessee leads the all-time series between the two schools 22-21-2. Let’s look at some other interesting numbers from the rivalry.

27: Nick Chubb — Georgia’s workhorse running back —  wears No. 27. His status for Saturday’s game is uncertain due to an ankle injury he suffered against Ole Miss. In the 2015 matchup, Chubb left the game due to a horrific knee injury. If the Bulldogs’ halfback is unable to go, this will be his second year in a row he will miss the game against the Vols.

28: Josh Dobbs led a furious comeback in 2015 to beat Georgia — the Vols scored 28 unanswered points during the second and third quarters to take the lead. If the Bulldogs want to win in Athens, they’ll have to hold on to any lead they get.

430: 312 yards through the air and 118 yards on the ground gave Josh Dobbs a whopping 430 yards of total offense against Georgia in 2015. This was the second time in his career he threw for over 300 yards and ran for over 100 yards. Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel are the only other players in SEC history to have such games with at least 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards.

117: The series between the Bulldogs and the Volunteers has spanned almost 117 years, with the first game between the schools taking place in 1899. Tennessee won that game 5-0. However, the teams didn’t meet on an annual basis until 1992.

1: This will be Kirby Smart’s first time coaching against Tennessee as a head coach. Smart is no stranger to the Vols, though. He’s seen them every year since 2007 as a member of the Alabama coaching staff. Defense is Smart’s area of expertise, and his Alabama unit held the Vols to a mere 14 points last season. This season, however, Smart’s defense at Georgia has given up 30 points per game. The current winning streak in this series is one game, with Tennessee winning last year’s contest.

11: After snapping an 11-game losing streak to Florida last week, Tennessee looks to start an 11-game streak of their own. Dating back to last season, the Volunteers have won 10 straight games. The Vols currently hold the third-longest win streak in the nation.

Tennessee will face Georgia on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.

Edited by Adam Milliken

Featured image by Alison McNabb, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Big SEC division implications in week four

Conference play heats up this week across the nation, and things look spicy so far in the Southeastern Conference. An early SEC win could be the difference between a trip to Atlanta and a weekend off for many teams. Although the 2016 season is young, each week in the SEC is much like a tournament. Win and you survive and advance to face a new foe. Lose and the chances of an SEC championship diminish greatly. Here are the most important conference games of the week.

No. 19 Florida (3-0) at No. 14 Tennessee (3-0)

Florida comes into Knoxville with a well-deserved degree of swagger. After narrowly escaping the Vols in 2015, the Gators were able to extend the series winning streak to 11 games. Any time you defeat a rival, you walk away with bragging rights. Do it 11 years in a row and the trash talk becomes never-ending.

That’s not all Florida has going for them, however. Florida’s defense has been unyielding through the first three games of the season, allowing just 14 points in 12 quarters of play. Tennessee, on the other hand, understands the repercussions that losing for a 12th time in a row could have. In much of the mid-2000’s, Tennessee lacked the talent to compete against players with the talent of Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin. In 2016, the Vols should have no problem matching up against the Gators, even when players like Jalen Tabor and Antonio Galloway line up on the other side of the ball. It would be inexplicable to lose now.

The talent is there, the fanbase is desperate and the atmosphere will likely be the most electric in Neyland Stadium in nearly two decades. Both teams understand the magnitude of this game. These two teams have emerged as the best of the SEC East. The winner will have a great chance to play in the SEC Championship Game come December.

No. 12 Georgia (3-0) at No. 23 Ole Miss (1-2)

Oxford may burn to the ground if Ole Miss is unable to defeat the Georgia Bulldogs. The Rebels entered the 2016 season ranked 11th in the nation with hopes of dethroning Alabama as the class of the SEC West. Three games in and Ole Miss is trying to save its season.

After blowing two 21-point leads in their first three games, the Rebels will have to prove their mental toughness in order to have an outside shot at an SEC Championship. Georgia, although boasting an unblemished record, has looked anything but perfect. Narrow victories against inferior opponents such as Nicholls State and Missouri have created more questions than answers for Georgia.

If the Bulldogs are able to win the game, they survive and advance. Their hopes of winning the SEC East will also remain alive.

No. 17 Arkansas (3-0) vs No. 10 Texas A&M (3-0)

Although neither Arkansas nor Texas A&M is viewed as a favorite to win the SEC West, a win in this matchup will keep one team perfect and in the conversation. The SEC West looks to be far superior to the SEC East top-to-bottom once again. A loss or two in the SEC East can still land one team a bid to Atlanta. On the other hand, it will almost certainly take a perfect season to win the SEC West.

The Aggies have had little trouble defeating their opponents this season, while Arkansas needed two overtimes to overcome the then-15th ranked TCU Horned Frogs in week two. If A&M wants to win on Saturday, they’re going to be tested like they haven’t been all season. Arkansas is accustomed to playing the underdog role. The winner of this matchup can rest until next week — the loser can kiss an SEC Championship goodbye.

Edited by Adam Milliken

Featured image by Andrew Bruckse, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee turns corner as Dobbs wills Vols to upset Georgia

Photo by Jordan Dajani

[title_box title=”Tennessee turns corner as Dobbs wills Vols to upset Georgia”]

Tennessee turned a corner Saturday night, upsetting the No. 19 ranked Georgia Bulldogs in Knoxville, 38-31.

Two years ago, Tennessee debuted their new “Smokey Grey” uniforms against a top ten Georgia team. The Vols weren’t expected to win that game, but they put up a surprising fight and lost a heartbreaker in overtime, 34-31. Head coach Butch Jones decided to try it again. The new Nike grey uniforms were broken out to possibly give his team a spark, hoping that it could ignite the program, which was on a two-game SEC losing streak.

It worked. The stage seemed set for Tennessee to get a season-defining win even before the opening kickoff. Dozens of former players including Jamal Lewis, Ja’Wuan James and Cordarrelle Patterson littered the sideline, offering encouragement to the players as they warmed up.

“All of our former players coming back for this game really set the mood,” said Jones. “The VFL’s really came out and supported this football team and it meant a lot to our players.”

A scary scene took place on the first play from scrimmage, when Georgia’s star running back Nick Chubb went down awkwardly, hurting his left leg. He would not return to action.

Most of the first half did not go according to plan for the Vols. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw an interception on Tennessee’s third play of the game after Jauan Jennings could not hold on to a pass. Later, running back Jalen Hurd coughed up the football on Georgia’s four-yard line and Georgia’s Leonard Floyd returned it all the way back for a 96-yard touchdown.

Photo by Jordan Dajani
Photo by Jordan Dajani

On the first play of the second quarter, Greyson Lambert found receiver Malcolm Mitchell deep for a 28-yard touchdown and ten minutes later, Reggie Davis returned a punt 70 yards to increase the lead to 21 points.

The wheels seemed to be falling off the wagon once again for Tennessee, but Dobbs orchestrated a drive that included two fourth down conversions and ended with a 39-yard touchdown reception by Josh Smith.

Tennessee then got a big break, as Jakob Johnson forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by the Vols. Using the short field, Dobbs was able to put together another quick touchdown drive to go into the halftime break only down a touchdown.

Tennessee scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter, which made it 28 unanswered points for the Vols and helped them secure their first lead, 31-24. On the first play of the fourth quarter though, Georgia struck through the air again, as Lambert found Davis for a 48-yard touchdown.

Dobbs once again, was able to answer with a five-yard rushing touchdown to go up a touchdown with five minutes left in the game. Georgia coordinated an impressive drive on their next possession, but it was ended when Davis failed to reel in a wide open catch that would have given Georgia a touchdown.

“Those are the breaks of football though, and we have had a lot go against us this year,” said Jones reflecting on the lucky break. “But like I always say, the harder you work, the more likely those bounces will go your way.”

Georgia got another chance to tie the game, but was put in a challenging spot after punter Trevor Daniel pinned Georgia on their own one-yard line. While Georgia came close, Tennessee was able to hold their one-score lead and obtain their first conference win of the season as fifth-year senior Brian Randolph came up with a sterling pass deflection to close it out.

Dobbs had quite a day on the ground and through the air. He rushed 18 times for 118 yards and threw for 312 yards with 25 completions on 42 attempts, accounting for five total touchdowns.

“Dobbs is the CEO of our team,” said running back Alvin Kamara. “Throughout the game, he stayed level-headed and got us the win.”

“Josh willed our offense to score points,” added Butch Jones. Dobbs’ leadership truly propelled Tennessee to victory.

Josh Malone was the lead receiver for the Vols, with five receptions for 60 yards. Kamara also had an impact on the passing game, recording five receptions for 31 yards and two touchdowns.

Georgia didn’t miss a beat in the running game after losing Chubb on the first drive. Sony Michel rushed 22 times for 145 yards and was dominant most of the game. Quarterback Greyson Lambert also played well, going 15-of-32 for 279 yards and two touchdowns.

Reggie Davis had a significant impact for the Bulldogs, recording three receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown, as well as a punt return touchdown. Malcolm Mitchell pulled in five receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown.

Saturday night, Tennessee finally got the tough win it had been biding time for. Jones said it best. “Our hard work has finally been validated. Everyone was poised, everyone was confident and everyone was encouraging.”

“We grew up a little tonight.”

Featured image by Jordan Dajani

Edited by Cody McClure

 

 

 

Tennessee vs. Georgia Matchup: Chubb vs. The World

[title_box title=”Tennessee vs. Georgia Matchup: Chubb vs. The World”]

The Georgia Bulldogs travel to Rocky Top this week to face the Tennessee Volunteers in a Southeastern Conference showdown that looks to be one for the ages.

Georgia is coming off its first loss of the year to Alabama where the Crimson Tide dominated almost every aspect of the game. It was the first game the Crimson Tide were the underdog in since the 2009 SEC championship game, and they came out and showed why they should have kept their streak of being favored going, winning 38-10.

Tennessee was a major disappointment yet again, blowing its third double-digit lead of the year, this time against Arkansas. The Vols looked to have all the momentum in the world after Evan Berry returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, but just could not get it going after their first offensive drive, scoring only six more points in the last three-and-a-half quarters.

There are going to be many big position battles this week when the Bulldogs and Vols meet. Among those: Greyson Lambert and Georgia’s wide receivers against Tennessee’s secondary, Georgia’s special teams trying to contain Berry but none are bigger than Nick Chubb against Tennessee’s front seven defenders.

Chubb is the second leading rusher in the SEC with 745 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground plus one receiving touchdown to bring his touchdown total to eight. The only person above him is the absolute monster (even calling him that is an understatement) that is Leonard Fournette.

As a true freshman, Chubb put up some astonishing numbers. Many people knew he would be a force to be reckoned with, but not many saw him rushing for over 1500 yards and racking up 16 total touchdowns behind Todd Gurley. However, when Gurley went out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in mid-November last year, it set the stage for Chubb to capture the minds of SEC fans.

And boy, did he capture them. He did not have the hottest of starts, but still managed a very respectable 224 yards and two rushing touchdowns in his first five games before exploding against Missouri. In that game alone, Chubb rushed for 143 yards and one touchdown and caught four passes for an added 31 yards. The next week, he dominated Arkansas, breaking 200 rushing yards for the first time in his career.

Since the game against Mizzou, Chubb has not had a game with less than 100 rushing yards. This past week, he wrote his name down in the Georgia history books yet again after breaking Herschel Walker’s record of consecutive games rushing for 100 or more yards. He piled up 146 yards against Alabama for his 13th straight in the streak, and fortunately for Georgia fans, he does not show signs of stopping any time soon.

On the other side of the ball, Tennessee’s front seven has not looked quite as elite as may thought it would this season. The Vols’ defense is near the bottom of the league in total rushing yards, having given up 858 yards. To give the Big Orange at least a little credit, however, they have faced Alex Collins of Arkansas (who had over 1000 yards last season) and Samaje Perine of Oklahoma (who holds the all-time single-game rushing record in the NCAA with 427 yards against Kansas last year). Collins alone had more yards against Tennessee than Texas’ entire team did in the Longhorns’ bowl game this past season.

So, if that is the case, why is this such a big matchup if Nick Chubb looks like he will just run all over the entire state of Tennessee? Well, here’s a couple pretty big reasons (no pun intended).

First off, the duo of freshmen big men Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle. Both are coming off of their best game of the season with five tackles a piece against Arkansas. That may not seem like a lot, but when you consider the fact that both are true freshmen who have not had much playing time yet factor in some certain intangibles, it gives Vol fans a rare point of optimism moving forward in the season.

Possibly the biggest reason these two can be a difference maker in the game is because of their size. McKenzie and Tuttle combine to weigh a whopping 655 pounds. That amount of mass in the center of the field is sure to slow even the best of running backs down. Even with the best offensive line in the country, Tennessee can throw Derek Barnett, Darrin Kirkland Jr., and Jalen Reeves-Maybin into the mix, and that is a pretty daunting force to stop.

Barnett had quite an impressive freshman campaign, ending the season with 10 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss, both of which are records for a UT true freshman. He was one of the most feared pass rushers coming into the 2015 season, and he has not had nearly the amount of production he had last year, only garnering one sack so far this year. However, this time last year is when he really burst onto the scene, so watch out for number nine from here on out.

With the absence of Curt Maggitt, a few new faces that have been put into action for the Vols lately. With Maggitt playing a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role, that makes for two big, unexpected shoes to fill . So far, however, LaTroy Lewis and Chris Weatherd have stepped up big in those positions, respectively. Along with Kirkland Jr. and Reeves-Maybin, the linebacker position is starting to get to where it needs to be. If Kirkland Jr. can protect the middle of the field, Tennessee just might pull off the upset that they have been so close to doing the past few years.

The bottom line is this: Chubb will have another great game. That is basically a given. There are not many scenarios where he does not rush for over 100 yards yet again. The key to a Tennessee win, however, is containing Chubb as best as they can and forcing Greyson Lambert to throw the ball more often. If the Vols’ front seven can step up, then maybe, just maybe, they can finally knock off the Bulldogs.

The game can be seen on television at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.

Edited by Nathan Odom

Rocky Topics: Will Tennessee win the SEC East in 2015?

Co-written by Nathan Odom

This week on Rocky Topics, Sam Forman and Nathan Odom debate whether or not Tennessee will win the SEC East in 2015.

Forman: Will Tennessee win the East in 2015? Simply put- yes. There are several reasons why they will win the East. First, Tennessee brings back 10 starters on offense and as much talent if not more than any other team in the East. Second, the East was nothing short of horrendous last year, and the Vols finished with more momentum than anyone else in the East. Joshua Dobbs comes back and will have more starting experience than anyone else starting under center. Plus, UT will have more veteran leadership on the field in 2015.

Odom: Sam, I respect what Tennessee has to offer, but I have two words for you: Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia has beaten Tennessee five consecutive times and will return many key pieces to a team that should have won the SEC East this year.  The Bulldogs have four returning offensive lineman, a strong front seven and several members of the secondary in what should be a veteran defense.  Although they lose fifth-year senior quarterback Hutson Mason, Georgia fans will likely see Brice Ramsey ,the third ranked pro-style quarterback in his recruiting class, under center.  Oh, and don’t forget about backfield monster Nick Chubb.  Georgia is in prime position to take the SEC East crown in the 2015-2016 season.

Forman: I will give you that Georgia should have won the SEC East last year, but we are talking about 2015, and that is the year of the Vols. Georgia will have several key players coming back – true – and Chubb was definitely impressive last year as well. However, the Vols and the Bulldogs will both have new offensive coordinaters next season. Tennessee will have a veteran starter and no real competition for the starting job, and that will aid the Vols. I will even go as far as to say the East will be between Tennessee and Georgia next year, but you can give me anyone on UGA’s roster, and the Vols can match him if not beat him. You mentioned Nick Chubb. Let me remind you UT has a beast of their own named Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara that will join him in the back field next year. Lastly, Georgia still didn’t add any depth to the wide receiver group whose inability to stay healthy has been an Achilles heel for the last two seasons.

Odom:  You would take Jalen Hurd over potential Heisman candidate Nick Chubb, who seemed to match, if not outplay at times, his predecessor Todd Gurley, a Heisman candidate as well?  But I digress. Georgia has a favorable conference schedule on the potential road to Atlanta.  They host some of their toughest games between the hedges in Athens: Alabama, reigning SEC East champion Missouri and talent-laden Florida all have to play in front of roughly 92,000 screaming Bulldog fans. They are 28-4 in Sanford Stadium in the past five seasons and will use that advantage to notch big conference wins.

Forman:  First, the only reason Hurd did not out play Chubb this year is the quality of the offensive lines in front of them. Tennessee’s offensive line struggled more than almost any other in the country last year, a problem they will not have in 2015, so yes I will take Hurd. Second, Tennessee has the more favorable schedule. The Vols get a boost with not having to play UAB and getting Bowling Green in Nashville instead. Plus, Oklahoma, South Carolina and the Georgia Bulldogs will be at home in the house that Neyland built with 102,455 screaming fans. The Vols will have to travel to the Swamp to play Florida and Bryant-Denny Stadium to play Alabama,Tennessee’s biggest road test. The Vols have almost beaten the Gators in their last two meetings, and Alabama is the only game I will say Tennessee probably won’t win in 2015.

Odom:  Although I do agree that Tennessee’s schedule is more favorable than it has been the past few years, some tough games at Missouri, Alabama, and in the Swamp will hurt the Vols’ chances at a trip to Atlanta in December.  Georgia hasn’t been scared of playing in Neyland the past few years- winning the past two games there.  If it comes down to the Tennessee-Georgia game to decide who is crowned SEC East champion, I like Georgia.  The Vols are on their way back, but I’ll say it’s at least one more year before Tennessee returns to Atlanta.

Edited by Maggie Jones