Tennessee Stat Book
The smartest thing Tennessee coach Derek Dooley could have done Saturday afternoon was fire defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri at halftime.
Then, he could have had the public-address announcer pass along the uplifting news to a half-filled Neyland Stadium.
If that sounds harsh, consider the greater good. A defense that Troy ravaged for 721 yards and 34 first downs is about to get everybody fired.
In fact, it's a wonder that at some point in UT's 55-48 victory over Troy, athletic director Dave Hart didn't seize the microphone from public-address announcer Bobby Denton and declare that the search for UT's next football coach had begun.
The crowd then could have responded with a chant for Tennessee's favorite fantasy football coach, Jon Gruden. As farfetched as that might sound to the more conservative members of the fan base, it's still an upgrade over the wave, which the fans mounted so enthusiastically in the first half.
Maybe that was a symbolic goodbye to the coaches. Or maybe the ritual served as a distraction to what was taking place on the field.
Tennessee's defense was so bad against a mid-level Sun Belt Conference team that even former UT defensive co
ordinators probably were embarrassed. John Chavis didn't give up 721 yards to a Steve Spurrier offense.
It was so bad that Troy quarterback Corey Robinson must have had second thoughts about his childhood dream to play for Tennessee. A better dream: playing against Tennessee's defense.
"It's a bad defense, man," Dooley said in what qualifies as the greatest understatement in his three seasons at UT.
And man oh man, Sunseri was a bad hire. But maybe that was the best a head coach on the hot seat could do.
A coordinator by committee, carving out plays in the sideline grass before each down, would have been an improvement against the Trojans, who began the afternoon 4-4, coming off a 34-27 loss against Florida Atlantic. That's the same Florida Atlantic whose only previous victory was by a 7-3 count against FCS school Wagner.
The Vols could have used Wagner's defense Saturday. Or at least its defensive coordinator.
On a positive note, good thing Cordarrelle Patterson didn't sign with Troy out of college.
The thought came to mind while watching Tennessee's wide receiver dance merrily through the Troy defense at every opportunity in the first half.
His first-half stats: four pass receptions, 150 yards, and a dozen-or-so Troy defenders faked so badly they might have reconsidered football as their sport of choice.
You could fill up a column describing Patterson's open-field excursions, which totaled 219 yards on nine receptions. And if I didn't feel compelled to address a defense that was at death's door, I would.
The incompetence of this defense would have been hard to fathom if Sunseri had introduced the 3-4 scheme to the team moments before it took the field. But this was Game 9.
Just when you think the defense has bottomed out, it descends to another level. The decline could be traced, in part, to the desperate influx of freshmen into a secondary that should be shell shocked by now.
Freshman Daniel Gray might as well have had a neon sign flashing over his helmet against Troy, which took advantage of him repeatedly.
At least, he has inexperience as an excuse. UT veterans often looked every bit as vulnerable while — on any given play — making a Troy receiver look as difficult to contain as Patterson.
Deep passes worked. Long passes worked. Draws worked.
Troy threw 60 passes, and not one was intercepted. UT didn't force a turnover. It didn't manage a sack.
Said Dooley: "We did everything on the sheet, and nothing really worked."
So maybe UT needs a new sheet.