The conclusion to week ten comes with a game that has major implications. While TCU is out of the running for a National Title, Tennessee isn’t, and given what transpired earlier this week, this game becomes really big for the Volunteers. TCU can try for a better bowl, no question, especially with a late run. But for Tennessee, they’re not trying for better, they’re trying for it all. Let’s take a close look.
A few periods of overtime can unfortunately blow an offense’s confidence, especially considering how the game started. The offense was clicking, had amassed a two score lead, all they had to do was keep it up. Quarterback Dewey Ainge looked outstanding, racking up 465 yards through the air to go with four scores and no turnovers. Halfback Donny Kazee may not have been as dominant, but he certainly wasn’t absent. 90 rushing yards on 22 carries with a touchdown isn’t terrible by any means. Tight end Glenn Stewart and wide receiver Scotty Stallworth each had 11 catches, but it was receivers Nash Nixon and Jonah Woods who stepped up on major third downs to keep drives moving.
The defense wasn’t awful either, as they had helped the Volunteers jump out to a two score lead, even making it a three score lead at one point. Unfortunately, the magic fell off. While corner Ronaldo Pescado and safeties Josh Bradley and Andrew Tillman all came down with an interception each, the defense only recorded a pair of sacks. Which means, it wasn’t necessarily a pressure that forced the turnovers, but just good coverage. More plays in the backfield would be a nice plus considering that linebacker Ronald McFish had 12 tackles with two for a loss. A solid performance, especially with three turnovers, but the lack of big plays in the backfield hurt.
It’s not a good thing to scrape by a team who has half as many wins as you do, but TCU feels good about it. TCU should also be feeling good about the performance by their two offensive leaders. Quarterback Dalton Andrews sailed 391 passing yards to put up two touchdowns and no turnovers. While Andrews looked good, he was outdone by halfback Koda Adok. Adok had one of his better performances this season, tallying 124 yards on 22 carries to go with a pair of rushing touchdowns. Similarly, wide receivers Andre Gyan and Jimmy Woodward each had over 100 receiving yards on just seven carries for both of them. All around, a nice offensive performance, especially on the later drives to secure the win.
There are a few red flags to be thrown here I would say. They gave up 31 points to Penn State, allowing them to convert on 50% of their third downs, and failed to force a turnover. As far as standout performances ago defensively, there weren’t any. Safety Kobe Jordan led the defense in tackles, collecting eight. Outside of that, it was a committee approach. Despite the negatives, the defense did what it needed to, helped win the game. I think the Horned Frogs would like to see defensive end Jabril Jackson and linebacker Aaron Davis stand up more often with big plays, though.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Which Dewey Ainge is stepping up today? The one who torched a Notre Dame secondary last week, or the one who had major issues a couple weeks ago? This, I believe, is the major thing to watch. If Ainge can put out similar results from a week ago, then things will be a lot easier for Tennessee
LB Ronald McFish v. HB Koda Adok
Adok had a really nice game last week, and McFish was no slouch either. We’ve seen TCU thrive off the success of Adok before, despite what Dalton Andrews can do as a quarterback. Still, to force TCU to be one-dimensional, McFish has to have a major game today. If he can keep Adok quiet, then the Volunteer defense can focus on air control.
To put it bluntly, there’s too much for Tennessee to lose here. It’s for that simple fact that I don’t think Tennessee will lose. They’ve got to be feeling angry after letting last week slip through their fingertips, and to avoid that catastrophe they should have another big game. It’ll be close, as is customary for both teams this season. But I don’t buy Tennessee allowing themselves to have the rug pulled from underneath them.
Tennessee 31, TCU 28