Saturday, December 1

Tennessee-LSU: At Least It Isn't Georgia

So I’m going to make another attempt at writing a running diary for a Tennessee game. I can’t promise I won’t get pissed off, I can’t promise I’ll be impartial, and I can’t promise that I won’t end up swearing like a sailor if a) the Vols get down big or b) they go up big. I can promise I’m going to make fun of Georgia as much as possible, I can promise I’ll make fun of ABC announcers even though this game is on CBS, and I can promise I’ll probably start swearing about Ohio State backing into the title game at some point.

Of course, before the game begins I’m forced to watch some more ACC football. What better way is there to ring in the SEC Championship than watching teams punt a lot? On the plus side, since Paul McGuire is working this game, I won’t have to listen to him tonight. Still, these guys get bonus points for claiming USC is the best team in the country now that they’re healthy. God, I hope UCLA rolls them. While I’m wishing for things that won’t happen, I’d like a new house. Still, how bad is it to forget that the national championship is decided by the best team, not the best starters? I never figured that’d be beyond the grasp of people that get pad to announce this for a living, but oh well. At least they’ve done a great job of keeping the players straight, something that didn’t happen with the Tennessee game last week.

3:50 pm: I know the game hasn’t started yet, but I’ve already decided that one of the best things about this game being on CBS is not seeing Dr. Pepper ads at every commercial break. I can only see so many shots of people drinking jelly beans and a fat guy dancing before it gets ridiculously old.

4:14 pm: The Vols are doing a great job moving the ball early; thanks to a gutsy move by LSU that didn’t pan out, the Vols got great field position. The biggest surprise about this game? They’re moving the ball on the ground early. There have been issues involving the play clock, so let’s hope they get that resolved. This isn’t a big game or anything like that. Big play so far: Gerald Jones took a direct snap on 3rd and 2, faked a handoff to Arian Foster, then cut to the opposite side to the field for a 19-yard gain. LSU’s entire defense bit to Foster’s side; nobody was even close to Jones for the first 10 yards.

4:16 pm: Chris Brown snags a deflected pass and runs it in for a TD early! It’s 7-0 Vols less than 3 minutes in. Who saw that coming? (Georgia. But they’re just having flashbacks.)

4:20 pm: I just want to mention this now, but Tennessee is wearing some all-orange duds that remind me of their jerseys from back in the ‘80’s. Considering my TV is, well, less than perfect, it’s creating an interesting picture half the time. It’s really kind of nasty when coupled with LSU’s yellow pants and white shirts; I can’t really see much. Maybe this is why CBS was confusing the Vols and Wildcats last week …. no, wait, those teams wear two entirely different colors. Never mind.

4:23 pm: Bad tackling (by UT) and good blocking (by LSU) have let LSU move the ball almost at will early. However, UT is showing good lateral pursuit early, which will limit Perriloux’s legs. Oh yeah – Matt Flynn started the game on the sidelines for reasons I don’t get. Maybe Les Miles is trying to invoke the ghost of Chris Simms.

4:27 pm: Both teams have burned bad timeouts early thanks to not being prepared; the difference between the two teams here is that LSU left Perriloux in while Tennessee had too much confusion after bringing backup QB Jonathan Crompton for a surprise.

4:28 pm: Remember that thing I said about not seeing Dr. Pepper ads? Yeah… I’m a dumbass. Know what team isn’t having any Dr. Pepper ads in their game? Georgia. And Ohio State. Well, that’s two teams, but the point still stands.

4:30 pm: Tennessee does a great job against LSU once the Tigers finally reach the end zone, blitzing Perriloux for a sack on 2nd down and then forcing him into a high throw across the middle to Doucet. Colt David banged home a FG to put LSU on the board, 7-3. All things considered, I’ll take it. I’m starting to get a bit worried, but I’ve got to remember that this isn’t a big deal for us. We’re playing with house money and we’ve cashed out everything we brought with us to the casino. Maybe I’ll start drinking.

4:33 pm: I wouldn’t be an 18-25 year old male if I didn’t comment that the LSU kicker’s number is 69. Hee. Lennon Creer slips on the return giving Tennessee not-great field position. Boo.

4:34 pm: Great point by Gary Danielson that the Vols are running early toward Glenn Dorsey, not away from him. That’s kind of ballsy.

4:36 pm: Tennessee is forced to punt; it’s a 39-yarder by Britton Colquitt. We’re so spoiled by the kickin’ Colquitts. I think he did a bad job on that and I have no reason to think so.

4:40 pm: LSU calls yet another timeout – there’s only 5:17 left in the 1st quarter. Not that big of a deal in the first half, but it could come back to bite them late. Meanwhile, I’m not sold that Tennessee has an answer for Jacob Hester. The Tigers are doing a great job mixing up both who’s running the ball and how they’re running the ball, but Hester is bruising anyone and everyone.

4:43 pm: Drinking game: drink every time that “Charles Scott” and “change of pace” are used in the same sentence. Chug if you’re an Ohio State fan – it’s cold up there, the booze’ll keep you warm. Also chug if you’re Mike Patrick, but you’re already drunk anyway.

4:45 pm: Colt David nails yet another FG to pull LSU within 1. Before that, there’s a substitution infraction on the Tigers, but it doesn’t matter. It’s 7-6 Tennessee. (And yes, I wrote all of this before the kick in an effort to jinx him. Didn’t work.)

4:49 pm: Lennon Creer doesn’t slip at all on this return! He cuts it across the field all the way to the LSU 42.

4:51 pm: Another drive goes nowhere for the Vols; LSU is doing a much better job at initial contact than Tennessee is right now. At least they dumped the Tigers deep, not that it’ll matter the way they’re tackling right now.

4:54 pm: Perriloux is limping! Flynn is probably good enough to go in, but the Vols are doing a good job of hitting Perriloux when they have the opportunity to. It’s about the only guy they’re actually hitting, but whatever. It’s also the end of the first quarter, so the Tigers catch a hidden break.

4:59 pm: LSU has opened up with more passing early in the 2nd quarter. This might be either in response to Perriloux’s limping or because they’ve established the run. Also, the “backup” would be Andrew Hatch according to CBS, but: bullshit. No way does Flynn not play in this game if Perriloux has to come out.

5:03 pm: LSU burns their final timeout of the 1st half with 11:24 left in the 2nd quarter. This update is courtesy of the Joe Gibbs School of Timeout Management.

5:05 pm: Hester stuffed! That’s courtesy of Eric Berry, who I’m sure I’ll mention again before today is over. He’s really come into his own these last few weeks of the season, and I’m already hoping he doesn’t go pro early.

5:07 pm: Tennessee gets a first down for the first time in …well, a while. I think. I don’t know the times offhand, but it’s been quite a bit. A semi-sustained drive would be good for the defense at worst.

5:10 pm: So much for that, but LSU has the ball deep in their own territory again.

5:12 pm: CBS’s “Best Move” of the year was Georgia storming the field against Florida. The “Worst Move” of the year wasn’t Georgia failing to show up, sadly. Wouldn’t it have been nice if that mattered?

5:15 pm: I lose track of downs and inadvertently thought Tennessee held them to a three-and-out, so I wrote that down. Once I realized it was 3rd and 7, I immediately deleted it, but the karmic damage was already done; LSU converted it on a nice pass to the sideline.

5:16 pm: Perriloux gets a vicious block on a Keiland Williams run, but Williams still got blasted for a huge, 14-yard loss. Win the battle, lose the war. Perriloux’s sacked on the next play and LSU has 3rd and 1/3rd of the field. Next up: a delay of game.

5:19 pm: Perriloux gets nailed for yet another loss of yardage! LSU is punting from the back of their own end zone… and does an excellent job of giving it back to Tennessee without losing too much in the field position battle thanks to a 58-yard punt from Patrick Turner.

5:20 pm: Fuck Dr. Pepper.

5:22 pm: Ainge throws an incomplete pass to Chevis Jackson – although it was intended for Kenny O’Neal. I remember thinking he was going to be a serious part of the offense before the season started. I’ll put it this way: Florida State’s kickers are more accurate than that statement.

5:24 pm: Another three-and-out. Oh boy. Amazingly, LSU ends up netting 6 yards from that round of punts; it’s their ball on their own 10 again.

5:27 pm: Tennessee gets a bit of a break; Early Doucet was open on a huge play on 1st down, but Perriloux overthrows him.

5:29 pm: Fuck Dr. Pepper again – I don’t care about halftime shows when I’m watching the game on TV. Meanwhile, Demetrius Byrd snags a nice slant for a 23 yard gain, and at this point we can say that LSU is on a drive.

5:30 pm: J.T. Mapu is injured on a play that eventually got nullified thanks to an illegal formation penalty. Fun moment as two trainers – who together don’t weigh as much as Mapu – try and help him up. That isn’t going to work. Just for fun, another false start penalty against LSU, so they’re looking at 1st and 20.

5:33 pm: I’ve knocked my cell phone and my TV remote off the recliner more times than I can even count. I should really put the legs up or something. Meanwhile, Perriloux slings one hell of a pass to Byrd for a first down. The play’s under review, though I don’t think there’s any way this gets overturned.

5:36 pm: Doucet picks up a huge gain on a WR screen and it’s first and 10 (basically, first and goal) for the Tigers. There’s only 38 seconds to go, but at this point I’m counting this first half as plus for Tennessee no matter what happens.

5:37 pm: Stupid clock; LSU gets some more time on the clock so they’ll have an opportunity for a shot to the end zone, but they opt for a spike and yet another Colt David FG. We’ll head into the half with LSU up 9-7.

5:40 pm: The jinx works this time! It’s actually 7-6 Tennessee going into the half. Ainge wisely sits on it to go into the locker room.

Halftime: I almost never say this, but kudos to the announcers; Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson have done an excellent job on this game. That being said, I think I’m biased after the horrible UT/Kentucky game; two goats would’ve sounded better than that crew.

I can’t say I’d be happy with the Vols’ performance if they were the favorites, but as underdogs I guess I’ll take it. After the opening drive the Vols have really struggled to move the ball, which means it’ll be up to OC David Cutcliffe to make adjustments. Hopefully DC John Chavis will recognize that Perriloux is starting to pass the ball more and make a couple of adjustments to account for that. The Vols did a better job accounting for Hester as the half wore on.

For LSU, they need to recognize that they’ll be able to move the ball on the ground if they alternate between up the middle and around the edges. The screens are working, but the pitches and direct tosses aren’t, so they’ll abandon that. If they’re going to pass, keep to the slants.

What they’re doing on defense is working as of now, but they do need to remember that Tennessee will try and extend the defense. It may help to keep Chevis Jackson back most of the time; he should’ve had a pick in the first half already.

6:03 pm: I’m coming back a bit early, but as a superstition I’ve taken off the UT hoodie. Now I’m only wearing the UT t-shirt. I feel like you need to know these things – and yes, both the hoodie and the shirt are tasteful.

6:10 pm: Wow, Brandon Lafell beat his cover man something fierce. He had enough time to turn around and run backwards for about 7-8 yards. That’s a 48 yard completion and it’s looking like LSU will actually take the lead this time around. Perriloux has quietly thrown for over 200 yards today.

6:11 pm: Rico McCoy blows up a reverse at the best possible point for the Vols; that’s a 10 yard loss. Of course, it doesn’t matter; Demetrius Byrd snags an easy, easy catch for a LSU TD, and it’s 13-6 LSU. Eric Berry misjudged the pass, otherwise it would’ve been a pick. That’s one missed pick for both teams now, although this one is more damning.

6:18 pm: I wonder if this is the requisite one nice drive that Tennessee will have this half. There’s the required screen pass – I just had a Randy Sanders flashback. Not good. (This game is a bonus. This game is a bonus.)

6:21 pm: Gerald Jones just was under center for a couple of plays; the first was a keeper option for a big gain, the second was a stuffed Foster run. He’s had a lot of tough yardage today, but he’s over 1,000 yards on the season now.

6:24 pm: Thanks to a barely-tipped ball negating a PI call, Tennessee is forced to settle for a FG, which Daniel Lincoln misses. Ouch.

6:25 pm: Chick-Fil-A is holding a strong second in frequency of commercials today, but they’re currently 750 behind Dr. Pepper. They’re going to have to pick it up; the Dr. Pepper Big 12 Dr. Pepper Championship Dr. Pepper Game begins soon, and there’s no catching them once that game kicks off.

Dr. Pepper.

6:30 pm: The Tigers are driving again, and this time they’re making the adjustments I was talking about, but Trindon Holliday has the ball pop out (big time! Went way up in the air) and Eric Berry recovers the fumble. He tried to set up a return, with no dice.

6:34 pm: Chris Brown snags his first catch of the game, as he was totally uncovered. He was really quiet in the first half, and it’s good to see the Vols opening up the passing game.

6:36 pm: Gary Danielson makes what I think is his first misstep of the game, saying that the Colts have an early second round pick. I’m about 90% sure that’s not the case, but maybe they do.

6:37 pm: I’ve never understood why the Vols have used Jonathan Crompton in a running-only package all season. We obviously know that he’s going to run, so the defense does too. Predictably he’s stuffed for no gain. Crompton has only three rushes on the season for -9 yards. I don’t get it. Meanwhile, Tennessee has a 3rd and goal.

6:40 pm: Josh Briscoe TD! It’s 14-13 Tennessee and the Vols have managed to seize momentum after LSU had it for most of the game. Also, Verne Lundquist makes his first misstep, confusing the actual Tennessee fight song – “March On Mighty Vols” – with a weird version of Rocky Top. I can’t blame him too much for it, though, but CBS covers enough games for the announcers to know they don’t play Rocky Top after the TD, they do after the extra point.

6:46 pm: Eric Berry with a INT! Perriloux threw a Neil O’Donnell-esque pass straight to Eric Berry. On a more disturbing note, I’ve apparently forgotten how to spell and both Lundquist and Danielson are slipping a bit. They’ve been good so far, but I’m getting a little concerned. Plenty of time left, guys – stay on target.

6:48 pm: Tennessee turns in a dud of a drive, but apparently they’re going for it on 4th and 2. They take their first TO with the third quarter about to end. I don’t know what I think of this call; I guess it’s one of those things you do when you’re the underdog. We’ll see what happens, but I’m not a big fan of this call if they go for it.

6:50 pm: They opt for a FG, but Lincoln sails it juuuust right. Perriloux also took a shot after that last INT, so LSU may look to run it for a bit.

6:52 pm: It looks like we’re heading to the 4th quarter with the Vols in the lead by 1. It’s a little bit better than I expected, but I’m not getting too excited. Yet. There’s way too much time left, and Tennessee hasn’t really felt like the better team most of the game except for the first few minutes and a 4-5 minute span of the 3rd quarter.

6:59 pm: Perriloux doesn’t look right. His passes haven’t been close to being on target, so we may see backup Andrew Hatch. I doubt it; I think that if a backup QB comes in it’ll be Flynn, busted tailbone and all. LSU is forced to punt, and Tennessee has the ball again.

7:04 pm: That was fun while it lasted. Three-and-out, LSU ball on their own 40.

7:07 pm: Eric Berry with a nice open-field tackle on Early Doucet. This was mainly an excuse to say his name again; he’s played a great game once again. I’ve started swearing at the TV. Doucet is shaken up on the next play, but it ends up as a three-and-out for LSU. I’ll take it. It may give me a heart attack before it’s all said and done, but I’ll take it for now.

7:11 pm: Fake punt by LSU! Pass to Quinn Johnson for a LSU first down. Ouch – that’ll give them some momentum.

7:14 pm: Brett Vinson lays a vicious hit on Demetrius Byrd forcing an incompletion. Good pressure by Xavier Mitchell to force the high pass, too. Speaking of high passes, the play before that should’ve been a TD, but Perriloux overthrew Byrd again.

7:16 pm: I don’t know if Danielson or the side judge is an idiot, but either a) Tolliver lined up in an illegal formation or b) Danielson’s an idiot. Meanwhile, LSU piles up another false start penalty and Tennessee catches a break on a muffed fair catch.

Also, fuck Dr. Pepper. I think I should’ve changed “bitch about Ohio State” to “bitch about Dr. Pepper”. It’s a tall task to piss me off more than the guilt-trip and/or intimation-of-sex duo that jewelry commercials throw at us this time of year, but …yeah, good job guys. It’s only going to get worse, too.

7:19 pm: Early Doucet is out for the game with a shoulder injury. Trindon Holliday limped off the field after the last drive. Not pretty. Also not pretty: the all-yellow jerseys that West Virginia will bust out sometimes. They just showed a Heisman-hype clip of Pat White, and I’m not sure I’d ever vote for someone who looks like he could stand next to the Wienermobile to be the mustard. (Still better-looking than Oregon’s yellow ones, though.)

7:20 pm: Jonathan Zenon jumps his route and turns it into a pick six. It’s 21-14 LSU. That was a killer in so many ways, but it really is more reflective of how the game’s been played so far today. It was somewhat surprising that Tennessee had managed to hold the lead for as long as they have. There’s still plenty of time in the game, but this also robs the Vols of much-needed momentum.

7:25 pm: After some early success running the ball, Foster hasn’t done much in the last 30+ minutes. In addition, the refs are doing a great job not calling obvious pass interference penalties, but a 2nd completion to Josh Briscoe results in a first down anyway. It’s not a 40-yard completion, but it is a 20-yarder.

7:28 pm: After yet another completion to Denarius Moore, I realize that we haven’t heard a lot from Lucas Taylor today. Josh Briscoe has been the killer this game. Also, Ainge is finally at 200 yards,

7:30 pm: LSU burns their first TO; there’s just over 6 ½ minutes to go in the game. I wonder if this is one of those TOs that won’t look so good in retrospect.

7:32 pm: Tennessee runs the same play two times in a row, both for incompletions. The first was a hurried pass, the second should’ve been caught. This is key because that 2nd pass was on 4th down. Now LSU will do nothing but run to try and kill the clock.

7:34 pm: Tennessee holds them on the first three downs and LSU actually punts on 4th down. Tennessee ball on their own 33 and that could’ve been a lot worse, all things considering. I would’ve expected an extended LSU run there, but they did give it to Hester on all three downs and hoped for the best.

7:38 pm: Good God, I’m yelling a bit too loud for my own good. Foster with a HUGE catch-and-run for a 47 yard completion, but the next play results in an INT. Direct pass to Gary Beckwith, who – once again – jumped the route.

7:41 pm: Tennessee is going to have to start using timeouts here, and they do; their first timeout is burned with just under 2 minutes to go. Perriloux ends up getting a first down on that next play (it was 3rd and 2) but runs out of bounds. That could be bad.

7:44 pm: Jacob Hester – predictably – gets the killer first down. That’ll be the game, and LSU should sit on it to kill the game.

All things considered, I can’t be too upset with the final result. I’ve been saying all week that this game is a bonus for the Vols; if they won it’d be beautiful, but it was a tall task at the outset. More importantly, they had a chance and at worst proved that they should’ve belonged.

Oddly enough, if you’re going to blame someone for the loss you’d have to blame Erik Ainge, but considering that he pretty much took the team on his back for the last few games of the season I can’t throw him under the bus. It was about as solid a 60 minutes as I could’ve expected, but the two Ainge mistakes – both on coverage reads – killed the Vols.

Aside from those two mistakes, the Vols played what was almost entirely a mistake-free game – no penalties and no fumbles. I could quibble with who was getting the ball – it was basically just Briscoe – but that’s really nitpicking.

Kudos to LSU; Perriloux played one hell of a game and carried them into the Sugar Bowl. Once again, nobody’s beaten the Tigers in regulation. They’ve done their part and hopefully they’ll play in the Capital One Bowl, barring a Florida selection. All things considered, I’ll take it.