After Arkansas's 49-7 win over the Vols last night, the Tennessee program arrived at 0-6 for the year in the SEC for the first time in its long membership in the conference. If that isn't the bottom, it seems pretty close. After the game, I was humming "Rocky Top, Not So High As It Used To Be, Poor Old Rocky Top, Rocky Top, Tennessee." What we saw last night in Fayetteville was the shell of the Fulmer program that was once used to beating Arkansas in all sorts of fashions, be it by multiple scores, overtime, or a fate turning turnover. In a series total of 13-4, still very much in favor of the Vols, Arkansas has had two narrow victories in 1992 and 1999 and one convincing victory in 2006 when the Hogs won 31-14. But last night's performance has to go down as the most dominate toppling of Rocky Top thus far.
* I spent a good portion of my football Saturday pulling for teams that Arkansas has already beaten. Gotta think about those computers and all. Auburn did nothing for us against Georgia. Vanderbilt, bless them, did beat Kentucky. How much does that help? haha. Texas A&M was up by two scores twice in their game with Kansas State, but still found ways to blow their leads and ended up in a four overtime game that they lost. No help there. Ole Miss lost to Louisiana Tech at home 27-7. They really have quit on Colonel Nutt. Troy lost again and hasn't done a thing since they played the Hogs. But, alas, South Carolina beat Florida, so we are likely to keep just one ranked team amongst our list of wins.
* My confidence level was really high going into this one. Though I admit that I thought we might be tempting the football gods by making Stoerner the honorary captain for this game. But it certainly not the 1998 mojo that he brought to the field. It was Stoerner 1999 that was there instead.
* I didn't hear a prediction for us on Gameday. But I did hear David Pollack say, "Can we trust Arkansas?" and he brought up the shacky wins on the road against Vandy and Ole Miss. Showing how much he knows about our program, he went ahead and called Tyler Wilson, Tyler Russell, who is the quarterback for Miss. State.
* In the mass Penn State coverage, which we all knew was coming, I did hear the name of one of their players and would like to offer him a scholarship to Arkansas (if I could). With the awesome football name of "Silas Redd," he needs to be playing for the Hogs!
* I was stuck watching traffic, what others call NASCAR, for the first part of the game, so part of my pre-game thinking was a cursing of my cable package's lack of ESPNNEWS.
ESPN2 SHIFTS GEARS:
* I came into the game while they were trying to decide if the Vols had fumbled. I hate it when the announcers all agree that it is a fumble and sound confident then the refs call the exact opposite, which is what happened on that series. But if the Hogs had gotten the correct ruling, then we would have been denied Dooley's sad attempt at a fake field goal.
* Derek Dooley is what my father calls an "And Son." Though he seems personable enough, I have a dislike for him simply because I think he more or less got his job because of his father's name. But hey, if what he put on the field last night is going to be the state of his Volunteers, then I am all for him having a long tenure in Knoxville. Clay Travis from "Out Kick Your Coverage" (a dumb name for a blog, if you ask me) is already calling for his head.
* In the list of things that we do well, you have to have near the top of the list our backs' ability to catch balls as they come out of the backfield. They have hands as good as many wide receivers. Ronnie Wingo's drop last week, for what would have been a sure touchdown, was more noteworthy for the reason that the backs rarely miss those catches.
* On the first drive, the Hogs got a drive saving penalty off Tyler Wilson getting slightly pushed in the back while out of bounds. The poor tv guy or photographer that Tyler creamed on the sidelines as a result, probably would have liked to have thrown some flag of his own.
* I am going to miss a whole lot of seniors come next year, but am I going to miss one as much as I miss Jarius Wright, my co-offensive player of the game. I give the other half of the pigskin to Dennis Johnson who had 97 yards rushing on eleven carries and two touchdowns. Jarius Wright, by the way, is the new career reception holder at Arkansas with 155 catches.
* Congratulations on Hocker with or against the wind being able to kick the ball consistently through the endzone for a touchback. I love it when I don't have to tense up when the opposing team sets off running it back.
WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT DEFENSE:
* Last night's performance represented the lowest point total against an SEC team since Willy Robinson joined the Arkansas staff. Before last night, the lowest amount of points given up by a Robinson defense in conference play was 14 points to Vanderbilt last year. Congrats Defense!
* Think on this: The Hogs gave up that low total while Tennessee had the ball for 37:06 compared to Arkansas's just 22:54. Tennessee had the ball for most of the night, but they couldn't score. Now, I think it is also worth saying that Tennessee is far from loaded on offense right now. But how many times have we seen the Hogs make a rookie quarterback look like a Heisman candidate? At 376 yards given up, there was some bending, more that I one like, but no major breaks outside of seven points.
* The Vols were only 4-18 on third down last night. That would average out to just one third down conversion per quarter.
* Jake Bequette played lights out last night. But I have to give the defensive game ball to Tramain Thomas for robbing the Vols of a touchdown just before the end of the first half. I think the game turned on that play. Instead of the game being 21-14 at the half, it stayed 21-7, and the Vols never really threatened again. That was Thomas's fourth pick of the season. And it was the Hogs' sixth consecutive game to get a pick.
THE PUNT RETURN FOR THE AGES:
* This deserves its own category, right? I went from thinking "Oh, Joe, what hubris you have" when he turned around and ran backwards to "Oh, Joe, what skill you have" in just a few seconds. I think ESPN counted five missed tackle. I thought there was six. Either way, nearly half of the Tennessee punt coverage team missed on Joe Adams. If I am their special teams coach, I would make them wear an ipad around their necks with that run constantly playing. But just for say a week, because, hey, that was Joe Adams! Obviously, my special teams player of the game.
HALFWAY TO 9-1 THOUGHTS:
* I was thinking how the Hogs at 21-7 still left the Vols in the game too much when they should have been out farther ahead. The Killer Instinct was found in the second half when the Hogs blew the game open. But I would love to see the Hogs get better at putting teams away earlier when they have the opportunity to do so. College football, as it has been said many times, is a game of momentum, so when you have it, get the most out of it. Don't fool around, for you never know when you might be on the wrong end of a rally.
* The stats people told us Dooley was 0-20 when tied or not leading at the half. A boost of confidence, but you also think, hey, this guy is due, right?
* Will Bobby Petrino be an old man at Arkansas and they are still playing the Brett Farve Wrangler commercial? Has any commercial had a long life on air than this one? When they filmed it originally, I bet that was two or three retirements and teams ago for Farve, haha.
* It occured to me, no all red uniforms at all this season. I thought they might have pulled them out for senior night.
* Relished in the news that Boise State had lost to TCU. And learned that Texas (the other UT) had lost to Missouri for the first time under Mack Brown. And for the record, I was happy that Nebraska won, for I didn't think the football gods should award a student body that earlier in the week protested the firing of someone who enabled a sex offender for years and years.
THE SIT BACK AND RELAX SECOND HALF:
* I had been wanting to see a game where the Hogs could coast to a victory, and the second half turned out to make it one of those type of games. When the Vols got stopped on 4th down on their side of the field and the Hogs went immediately to the air for six points to make it 34-7, you knew you were not going to have to get out the heart medicine this week.
* Tyler Wilson finished the night 16-26 (62 percent) for three touchdowns and one interception.
* A credit to Wilson and the offense, Dylan Breeding punted only three times for a great average of 49.3 yards per punt with a long of 55 yards.
* Arkansas goes yet another game where they have outscored the opponent in the 4th quarter. 14-0 this time.
* The sharp pass from Brandon Mitchell to Herndon, that was good to see. And then the run by D. Curtis, who got a touchdown on senior night, was Trent Richardsonesque in its execution. Though it also didn't look like the Vols were all that much into the game by that point. But that is not to take anything away from Curtis's touchdown. The side that looks the worse for that run wore orange. General Neyland increased his graveyard RPMs after that play, no doubt.
* Somebody I wanted to see score, but didn't, was Greg Childs. Whereas I think Mallett looked to the taller guys, Hamilton and Childs, a great deal. Wilson seems to look more for Wright and Adams, the smaller guys. I have no figures for that. That is just a gut feeling.
* Hey, D List ESPN Crew, it is not a "quote unquote home game" in Little Rock that the Hogs play next week. It is a home game for the Hogs. Their second home is in Little Rock, which is where I can't wait to be come next week where the Hogs will be greeted by over 50,000 Hog fans looking to cheer them on to a tenth win for the season.
BIG PICTURE THOUGHTS:
* The latest prediction is that the Hogs will move up to No. 6 in the BCS due to the Stanford and Boise losses. Something I said to my friend last night over the phone is just great it is to see the Hogs two years in a row listed among the BCS top ten week after week.
* If so many more things were to go right, like Auburn sneaking Cam Newton into the Iron Bowl, haha, and the Hogs win next week and then in Baton Rouge, it could be a showdown in Atlanta between the Georgia Bulldogs and the most hated man, outside of Sherman, to have set foot in Georgia, Bobby Petrino. How sweet would it be for the Hogs to win their first SEC Championship with Bobby Petrino at the helm in front of a stadium of Falcon fans? haha. I can think of nothing more delightful to contemplate right now outside of the Hogs winning the national championship itself.
* My final reflection here is going to be a thank you and a second to John's earlier post. Thank you to all the seniors who made it through the rough season that was Petrino's first here at Arkansas, then went on to win a bowl game in the next season (always an accomplishment at Arkansas! haha), then brought the Hogs to their first BCS bowl, and then this year to have the team at 9-1 with the prospects of even bigger things at the end of this season. You guys have established an excellent foundation for the program that we all love. We look forward to seeing you play in your remaining games, and I personally wish you all the best in life, on and off the field, in the years ahead. I hope to someday be walking around the campus and come across your names on Senior Walk, for they belong there as much as they do in our memories of your many on the field heroics.