Thrill of Victory

Titans, Vandy losses dampen local football weekend

It was mostly a disappointing weekend for football fans in Nashville with Vanderbilt and the Titans suffering disappointing losses – unless you’re a Vol fan of course. There’s plenty to talk about from the weekend of football, so let’s get started.

Titans never really in it in loss to Patriots
Let’s start with the good that came from the Titans’ 34-13 loss to the Patriots was that quarterback Jake Locker looked like he belonged on the big stage. Locker hit 22-of-32 passes for 229 yards and a score. That touchdown was a thing of beauty as Locker, under duress, lofted a perfectly-placed throw to Nate Washington just over a pair of Patriot defenders. Locker got hurt late in the game, hurting his shoulder on a tackle, but it was his non-throwing shoulder and he should be back next week. Rookie Kendall Wright was also a bright spot, catching five balls for 37 yards in working out of the slot.
The bad news: just about everything else. The Titans got dominated on the lines of scrimmage; there was nowhere for Chris Johnson (11 carries, four yards) to run while his Patriots’ Stevan Ridley had creases all day. The Titans pass rush generated just one sack and didn’t force a turnover. With a trip to San Diego next week, it’s not getting any easier.

Vandy can’t finish at Northwestern
Throwing against Northwestern’s poor secondary looked like it would be child’s play after Syracuse torched the Wildcats for 470 yards passing last week. When Jordan Rodgers hit Jordan Matthews with a 22-yard toss on the game’s first drive, the game looked exactly like a lot of us thought it would… until it didn’t.
Simply put, the Commodores failed to keep their foot on the gas. Leading 10-3 and having dominated the stat sheet as the first half was winding down, Rodgers fumbled at the Northwestern 11 and all the air seemed to go out of the Commodores’ sails from there. Northwestern took the second-half kickoff and got a field goal to inch closer, and finally took the lead late. Vandy had one more chance to win in the final minutes, but Rodgers fumbled that away in closing moments.

The 23-13 loss hurt worse than the score indicated. Vandy’s got a breather with Presbyterian next week, but then the next four games are at Georgia and Missouri, and then Florida and Auburn at home. VU will be an probably be an underdog in all four games and now almost certainly will have to pull an upset in one.

The question is whether its offense is good enough to do so: that unit has now performed poorly in four of VU’s last five games as the linemen aren’t doing their job, and everyone’s wondering what happened with the creative play-calling we saw last year.

Vols vault into Top 25 with whipping of Georgia State
Okay, so the Vols beat a team that lost 33-6 to South Carolina State last week. Still, what you want to see in a game like this is that a team takes care of business – and with a 51-13 victory, that’s what the Vols did on Saturday. The biggest stat: Tyler Bray’s 18-of-20, 310-yard, four-score day. That insured that the Vols’ first-teamers had a chance to rest by the time the fourth quarter rolled around.
I’ve always been a believer that you learn very little from games like this, but it won’t take long before we have a game from which we can take something from since the Florida Gators visit Knoxville next week. The contrast in styles between UT’s pass-happy attack and UF’s old-school, grind-it-out game will be interesting to watch.

Around the Southeastern Conference
The biggest game came in Columbia, Mo., where Georgia stuck it to Missouri by scoring 32 of the game’s last 35 points in a 41-20 victory. Linebacker Jarvis Jones was huge, winning at least one national defensive player of the week award. That the Bulldogs were able to get through this game on the road in front of a packed house, even though they were hurt badly by injuries and suspensions, should establish Georgia as a legitimate SEC tile contender. … Perhaps as impressive was LSU’s 41-3 pounding of Washington. The Huskies came to Baton Rouge with a high-powered offense, but UW managed only a field goal after LSU fumbled the opening kickoff deep in its own territory. … The shock of the weekend came in Little Rock as unheralded Louisiana-Monroe upset the No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks. ULM, picked in the middle of the Sun Belt after going 5-7 a year ago, out-gained Arkansas 550-377 and also knocked UA out of the top 25 and quarterback Tyler Wilson out of the game. Wilson is questionable as the Razorbacks play Alabama next weekend. … Speaking of the Crimson Tide, it had no problem in beating Western Kentucky, 35-0. … South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw didn’t play with an injured shoulder, but backup Dylan Thompson surprised everyone by throwing for 330 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions as the Gamecocks routed East Carolina, 48-10. … Florida completely shut down Texas A&M’s offense in the second half as the Gators spoiled the Aggies’ SEC debut in College Station. … It was only Kent State, but any win over an FBS opponent counts as a big accomplishment in Lexington right now – especially when Kentucky wins 47-14 and Maxwell Smith throws for 354 yards, the most at UK since 2007. … Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze continues to enhance his reputation as an offensive genius. The Rebels rolled up over 500 yards for the second-straight week and handled UTEP easier than expected by a 28-10 count.