Game recap: LSU 38, Tennessee 7
Box score: UT vs. LSU
Tennessee Stat Book
Matt Simms admitted as much after the game. His 6-for-20 effort with two interceptions wasn't good. A lot of that had to do with LSU's vaunted defensive backfield, but the two picks were costly and demoralizing to a UT offense that had little room for error. Simms will simply have to be better in upcoming games because he's really the Vols' only option at quarterback now.
Running backs B+
Though he was barely able to practice all week because of a pulled hamstring, Tauren Poole showed burst and power that hasn't been on display much this season. It wasn't his best effort from a yardage standpoint (70), but he's done worse against worse defenses. In the few carries he received, freshman Marlin Lane looked more comfortable and willing to fall forward rather than juke backward.
Wide receivers/tight ends C
Da'Rick Rogers had the Vols' biggest play when he caught a pass across the middle and dragged LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu more than 20 yards down the field, but that was one of just a handful of highlights. Both Rogers and Zach Rogers dropped passes that could have gone for long gains, and tight end Mychal Rivera wasn't able to get involved in the passing game.
Offensive line B
After yet another week's worth of negative scrutiny, the Vols stepped up and actually had some push against one of the nation's toughest defensive lines. The Vols gained 111 yards on the ground, a modest total compared to most teams but a tremendous achievement for UT considering what it did against Florida and Georgia. Simms hit the deck a few times, but the pass protection was largely sufficient, too.
Special teams B+
This unit was in dire need of a no-news kind of game. Matt Darr's punts weren't spectacular, but Mathieu never had a chance to break off any big gains. Anthony Anderson downed one of them at the 1-yard line, and Devrin Young notched a career-high 60 yard kickoff return. Michael Palardy's extra point survived an unusual replay review.
Defensive line B-
The Vols handled themselves well in the trenches, mostly in the first half, contributing three tackles for a loss and getting a sack from defensive tackle Daniel Hood. Malik Jackson made his presence known with eight takedowns.
The smashmouth style LSU brought to Neyland Stadium suited A.J. Johnson perfectly, and the freshman responded with a game-high 11 tackles. Classmate Curt Maggitt wasn't far behind with seven, and Austin Johnson was again productive in the middle.
The Vols again appeared to be content to give up space for short throws in exchange for not getting beat deep, but that doesn't work if the defensive backs can't make the tackle. Brent Brewer did show up with an athletic play behind the line of scrimmage.
Derek Dooley didn't face a lot of tough decisions as LSU pounded away in the second half and dominated the clock. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was finally able to dial up some rushing plays that went the right way.
The talent disparity couldn't have been more clear as the seconds ticked away in the second half. The rebuilding job is ongoing, and UT did all it could to compete as it tries to bring in personnel that can stand toe-to-toe with the best in the country.