Tennessee averaged a paltry 1.8 yards per rush and was never able to gain any consistent threat on the ground. Gerald Riggs Jr. missed several holes and when he did break out Georgia safety Greg Blue collared the senior to the ground. The Vols’ offensive line was dominated by the Bulldogs’ front, which may have been the most important factor in the poor rushing performance.
Quarterback Rick Clausen threw for over 300 yards, but it wasn’t enough to help the struggling offense reach the end zone. Clausen overthrew an open receiver in the end zone and followed it up with an crucial interception on third down. He did hit eight different receivers, four of which made catches for gains of over 20 yards, but freshman Josh Briscoe fumbled away the Vols’ chances in the fourth quarter when he was stripped after making a catch.
Saturday’s game was easily the Vols’ worst effort of the year against the run, but it came against the most effective running team they have faced. UT allowed 198 yards on the ground to four different runners. Quarterback D.J. Shockley eluded several Tennessee defenders on scrambles and often turned a nothing into something. On the Bulldogs’ final drive, they pounded the Vols’ front, running nine straight plays on their way to the end zone.
Shockley was able to pick apart the UT secondary at times and found massive tight end Leonard Pope four times for big gains. Jonathan Wade’s third-quarter interception was Tennessee’s only real sign of life during the loss. Georgia’s young receivers were mostly ineffective, but Shockley found a way to throw for more than 200 yards. Losing Jason Allen just before halftime could have been crushing, but Inky Johnson and Roshaun Fellows filled in admirably.
Tennessee cemented its place at the bottom of the SEC in special teams. The Vols were pinned inside their own 1-yard line on two occasions by UGA punter Gordon Ely-Kelso. UT punter Britton Colquitt, on the other hand, placed just one punt inside the 20. He also made a crucial mistake punting a line drive to the middle of the field, setting up Thomas Flowers’ 54-yard, game-sealing touchdown return.
John Chavis’ defense had another solid plan, but preparation seems to be lacking in all areas. As bad as the offense has been, special teams might have ultimately cost the Vols a shot at the SEC East. The kicking game might have cost the Vols a win at Florida and ended any chance of a comeback against Georgia. Bottom line: the Vols continue to underachieve. There’s too much talent on the field to justify the offensive woes, and the defense can’t do it all.
Published: Tue Oct 11, 2005