Friday, November 17, 2006

UT-Vandy Game

Saturday at 12:30 EST, Dores-Vols. This will be the last game in black and gold for 16 seniors. Sound off here.


Stanimal said...

This marks 101st meeting between the two schools, though those in the hideous orange would only say it's the centennial, as they don't count our win in 1918. The current total record is 67-28-5 in favor of Tennessee, and since 1960 Tennessee has dominated the series 41-4-1.

I only say this because every win over those putrid East Tennessee hillbillies is twice as embarrassing for them as it is exhilirating for us. And, as stated in our previous football posts, they no longer have a reason to think they can walk right past us. That depends entirely, however, on who shows up.

Our offense last week absolutely demonstrated how big a threat the Nickson-Bennett Combo can be. We managed to put up 621 yards total offense, with Nickson collecting 446 yards of which Bennett raked in 220. Conversely, our defense faltered mightily, surrendering 597 total yards, 450 through the air and 147 on the ground.

If Vandy is going to pull off it's second great upset of the season, they're going to need a big performance out of Cassen Jackson-Garrison and Chris Nickson. The fact is that Tennessee is very susceptible to the run allowing an abysmal 218.3 yards per game rushing. If Garrison can run the ball well between the tackles, and Nickson can break a few big plays of his own, we can control the clock and keep their high powered offense off the field. Mix in some big pass plays from Nickson to Bennett, and you've got the recipe for an upset.

Defensively, we have GOT TO STOP THEM FROM THROWING THE FOOTBALL. Our secondary was horrendous last week and we will be facing a much more potent passing offense with Ainge, Robert Meachem, Jayson Swain, and Bret Smith. Unfortunately, I'm not sure we have the personnel to contain all those weapons. In addition, Tennessee has a pretty solid tailback against a run defense that gave up 147 rushing yards to a poor running Kentucky team.

However, as we all know, our defense is constantly under-rated, and can stand up in big games. So if their performance stands up to their ones against Georgia and Florida, look for Vandy to have a solid chance. Otherwise, we might as well start plotting ways to make the Tennessee band choke on their tubas during their afternoon long performances of rocky top.

In summary, keys to the game:

Vandy Offense: Control the clock running with Jackson-Garrison, Big Plays from Bennett and Nickson, Keep the Tennessee offense off the field

Vandy Defense: Step up to their arch-rivals and play like they did against Georgia and Florida.

Seamus O'Toole said...

Nice analysis, Stanimal. I think you're right about their passing game, and in my view the key to stopping it is to pressure Ainge. This will be his first start since the injury, and while Fulmer says he's "right at 100%", there's no guarantee. Our best chance will be to mix up some blitz packages (which we've actually done pretty well this year) and force him into some bad throws. Any word on the health of our defense?

Anonymous said...

There are very few stones left un-turned by Stanimanl, way to lock it up.
In looking over the Game Notes (available at, a few stats strike me both about this game, and Vanderbilt's season.
First, our field goal kicker is 8/17, that is atrocious. Forget the fact that a gust from the gods cost us the Arkansas game, we have lost 6 SEC games by a total of 48 points, 4 by 7 points or less. In all of those games, we missed either point after kicks or field goals, or both. We leave too many points on the board, and that is why we are 1-6 in SEC play. If we are going to win tomorrow, we have to execute and score whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Second, Vanderbilt has got to hold on to the ball. We have 26 turnovers this season, for an average of 2.36 turnovers a game. If we can win the turnover/takeaways battle we, as Stanimal said, will be able to keep their defense on the field and rest ours.
Third, 3rd down efficiency will be key. We are converting less than 33% of the time on third down. Against Vanderbilt, teams are converting almost 42% of the time. For the season, UT has converted 50% of the time on third down. We need to keep this number below 50% (and ideally down below our season average). 3rd down is a momentum down, if we can convert, and contain them, this game becomes very very interesting.
Finally, and again, this is piggy-backing the animals previous post, we have got to contain the UT passing game. 2/3 of their first downs come through the air. 71% of the yards they have gained all season have come in the air. Ground the air attack (or at least containing it) will keep Vanderbilt in this game. I don't care what ol' Phil says, Aigne is a question mark coming off an injury. If we can put some pressure on him, the entire complexion of the game changes.

Stanimal said...

Putting pressure on Ainge while he's in the pocket, particularly with sprained ankles, will definitely keep their passing attack at bay. But let's keep in mind that it won't be that simple. Vanderbilt is currently 55th in the nation in sacks, averaging only 2.18 per game. They will be going against an offensive line that ranks 13th in Sacks Allowed, and I don't mean 13th worst. Tennessee averages only 1.2 sacks per game, whether Ainge is starting or not. In addition, Tennessee's offensive line only allows 4 tackles per for loss each game, good enough to tie with USC for 11th best in the country.

This means that the offensive line isn't so much a 5 pack of Little Debbie Cupcakes as they are 5 cinder blocks lined up together. With creative blitz packages, we can put in some added pressure and hopefully force a few bad throws. But don't be surprised if Ainge makes a couple big plays of our gambles, as he's no slouch of a quarterback himself.

I re-emphasize that our best defense in this game is a good offense, and the less time David Cutcliffe and Ainge have to exploit weaknesses, the better.