Tennessee beat South Carolina 31-13, and first-year coach Lane Kiffin was critical of his offense. My, how things have changed.
UT scored that many points in only one SEC game last season while they were tumbling to 115th nationally in total offense. A year later, the Vols have established themselves as a respectable, middle-class offense with a 59th national ranking.
I'm more surprised by how UT has improved than how much it has improved.
I expected recruiting would be a big factor in any increased offensive threat. I was wrong.
Freshman wide receivers Marsalis Teague and Nu'Keese Richardson have combined for 15 catches, and freshman running back David Oku rushed for 68 yards. Prize running back recruit Bryce Brown has flashed his potential, rushing for 345 yards and catching eight passes for 105 yards.
But an offense doesn't improve from 115th to 59th based on those numbers. In fact, UT's rise in offensive power has come more from player development than recruiting.
The most obvious example is quarterback Jonathan Crompton, who after an ominous start, has become a solid SEC quarterback. Such improvement is a joint effort - from a fifth-year senior and a first-year coaching staff.
That same coaching staff also has worked wonders with an offense that lost three-year starting center Josh McNeil to injury and didn't have a running back with more than 384 yards rushing in a season.
UT's 42nd ranking in rushing is even more eye-catching than its improvement in total offense. That goes back to the off-season when Kiffin made a commitment to a strong, tough-minded running game.
His players have taken it from there.
Montario Hardesty, a fifth-year senior, has blossomed into one of the SEC's marquee players. He ranks fourth in the conference in rushing yards per game and is only 159 yards short of a 1,000-yard season, which would almost triple his previously best season.
He has accomplished that behind a line that has suffered two key injuries and is supposedly woefully lacking in depth.
But the questionable depth didn't account for the contributions of the Sullins twins, Cory and Cody, two former walk-ons who have become starters.
The line has not only improved in run-blocking, it has improved in pass protection. South Carolina, which features two of the best pass rushers in the country, managed only one sack Saturday. The Vols are tied for second in the conference in fewest sacks allowed.
Another factor in UT's offensive improvement has been play-calling.
Kiffin and his staff know how to manage a game. You have seen that in how they have protected weaknesses in personnel and accentuated team strengths.
They also have expanded the offense.
In preseason practice, UT repeatedly threw the ball to fullbacks Kevin Cooper and Austin Johnson, both of whom proved to be capable receivers. Based on experience, I couldn't help but wonder if that would be a passing fancy, confined to preseason practice.
South Carolina wishes it had been. Crompton threw touchdown passes to both Cooper and Johnson in the first quarter, and the pass to Johnson covered 38 yards.
Those touchdown passes to fullbacks were worth more than 12 points. They were reminders that a once-laughable offense is headed in a different direction.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.