Thrill of Victory

Weekend wrap: Titans are terrible, Vols just miss

The Titans stunk again, the Vols pulled off a near-miracle, and a few Southeastern Conference teams were quite impressive as we approach the midway point of college football’s regular season. Here’s all you need to know from what happened this weekend.

Titans are no match for Texans
It was a surprise to look at the box score from yesterday’s game and see that the Titans out-gained the Texans, 325 to 297, because it seemed that Tennessee was completely out-classed from the opening drive when Houston drove the field and scored a touchdown. Only after Craig Stevens’ touchdown midway through the second quarter did it seem that the Titans had a chance, but that was fleeting as the Texans added two more touchdowns in the third quarter and removed any doubt as to what was going to happen.

Mostly, this game was an ugly for the Titans; two of Matt Hasselback’s passes were intercepted and returned for touchdowns (he was playing because Jake Locker got hurt), and right tackle David Stewart’s dirty play was downright embarrassing; I kept wondering why Mike Munchak didn’t pull him because he was completely out of control.

Were there any good things that came from Sunday’s 38-14 loss? Well, Chris Johnson rushed 25 times for 141 yards as the offensive line (finally) opened some huge holes, but a lot of those yards came well after the game was decided. But honestly, I wasn’t super-impressed with Johnson’s performance: it seemed he had a chance to break some of those runs into long plays, but he clearly doesn’t have the same elusive quality once he gets into the secondary that he had a few years back.

Now, we’ll all wait and see how badly Locker’s shoulder is hurting – and hope it’s not bad. You hate to throw in the towel in the season so early, but this looks like a team that’ll be picking quite early in next year’s NFL Draft as there are just too many holes in too many places to find a lot of optimism.

Vols nearly pull a stunner in Athens
Tennessee was dead and buried midway through the second quarter at Georgia until the Bulldogs got careless with the ball and allowed three touchdowns in about a four-and-a-half minute span. Georgia again appeared to be pulling away at various points in the second half, but never quite closed until intercepting Tyler Bray in the game’s closing seconds to seal a 51-44 win.

If you’re a UT fan, you’ve got to be encouraged that your team didn’t fold, and the fact that Rajion Neal is becoming a factor in the running game. On the other hand, you’ve got to be discouraged with a defense that can’t stop much of anyone – and really, that’s the big question going forward for UT, because the Vols are good enough on offense that just a decent defense could get coach Derek Dooley to eight wins.

Elsewhere around the SEC

  • Ole Miss played Alabama surprisingly close: the final was 33-14, but ‘Bama out-gained the Rebels just 305-218. The difference was mistakes; Alabama won the turnover battle 3-1. Both teams got something from this; for Alabama, it’ll keep its No. 1 ranking, and for the Rebels, they have to be encouraged by an unexpectedly-excellent defensive performance.
  • Arkansas got humiliated on the road at Texas A&M, giving up the last 51 points in a 58-10 rout at the hands of the Aggies. Freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel’s incredible start to his college career continues: he’s accounted for 16 touchdowns and no turnovers, and set an all-time SEC single-game mark for total offense on Saturday.
  • Missouri got a 21-16 road win over Central Florida, as quarterback James Franklin got back on track with a 257-yard passing day. The Tigers gave up 395 yards, but they’ll take a quality win like this one any day after struggling at South Carolina last week.
  • South Carolina was a 21-point favorite at Kentucky, and that was exactly its final margin of victory, but it had to close the game on a 31-0 run after trailing 17-7 at half. The most encouraging stat for the Gamecocks: Marcus Lattimore’s 23 carries for 120 yards.
  • What’s going on at LSU? For the second-straight week, the Tigers were sluggish, beating a Towson State team by 16 when the margin should have been three or four times that. LSU had better get its act together before heading to Florida this Saturday.