Tennessee Stat Book
A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt each wore thousand-yard stares.
They and the Tennessee defense nearly gave up that many.
Maggitt called the day "unacceptable." Johnson chose "embarrassing."
Both were befitting.
The two Tennessee linebackers had few answers in explaining the Vols' record-smashing ineptitude in Saturday's 55-48 victory against visiting Troy.
The numbers jumped off the stat sheet — 48 points surrendered, a school-record 721 yards allowed.
Coach Derek Dooley let the words seep out.
"Seven-two-one," he said.
There was little left to say. This wasn't mighty Alabama. It wasn't high-octane Florida. It wasn't Steve Spurrier and South Carolina.
It was Troy. And after a week of assurances that the Vols' defense would find its way before season's end, Troy turned Neyland Stadium into its personal practice field.
The Trojans ran 99 plays. They gained 496 yards through the air, 225 on the ground. They racked up 34 first downs. They ate nearly 38 minutes of the game clock.
They dominated the Vols.
"We knew it was going to be statistically a tough game," Dooley said. "But not that tough."
Not historically tough.
The signs were there early. On Troy's second offensive possession, the Trojans faced a third-and-9 on the UT 17. A pass from quarterback Corey Robinson fell incomplete.
Flag. Offsides, Tennessee.
On third-and-4, Robinson again couldn't find his target. An incomplete pass bounded on the turf.
Flag. Offsides, Tennessee.
First down, Troy.
Running back Shawn Southward scored on the following play.
"We made a ton of mistakes, which is the same storyline," Dooley said.
On Wednesday of last week, UT secondary coach Josh Conklin called pre-snap communication issues a "problem (that) compounds week after week if you don't get it fixed."
Another week. More compounding.
When the Trojans found themselves on the UT 16-yard line with a 28-10 deficit, coach Larry Blakeney sent out the field-goal unit on fourth-and-2. Confusion ensued.
Tennessee had the wrong personnel on the field and one too many players. Dooley called timeout.
Blakeney reconsidered. He went for it, and was rewarded with a 15-yard first-down pass. He watched his Trojans score three plays later.
Over and over, the Vols tripped over themselves. Asked after the game if defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri's efforts to simplify his newly installed 3-4 defense is helping matters, Maggitt said it's as basic as can be.
"The defense is pretty simple," the sophomore said. "Coach Sal is doing the best he can. It is on us. We just have to go out there and execute."
If a lasting image emerged from the afternoon at Neyland, it was Vols starting strong safety LaDarrell McNeil being planted into the ground by Troy's run-first quarterback Deon Anthony. McNeil met Anthony a few yards in front of the end zone on a 28-yard run late in the first half.
McNeil ended up on his back. Anthony ended up on the checkerboard.
"I couldn't be denied to get in the end zone," Anthony said.
The Trojans were denied few things, but when the clock approached zeros late in the game, the UT defense did make a difference. The Vols held back the flood on four of Troy's final five possessions."And that's the reason we won," Dooley said.
But even the coach knows 700-plus yards of total offense aren't allowed silver linings.
"It's bad," Dooley said. "It's a bad defense"
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn