KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Mercifully, the 2017 Tennessee Volunteers are no more.
Saturday’s loss to Vanderbilt was a fitting end to the worst season in Tennessee football history. The Vols lost eight games in a season for the first time and finished winless in the SEC for the first time, as well.
If this isn’t rock bottom, I don’t know what is.
Here are five takeaways from the Vols’ 42-24 loss to Vanderbilt.
1. The porous run defense shows up again
Tennessee’s rushing defense has been abysmal all season, so to see Vanderbilt rush for 246 yards against the Vols wasn’t a surprise. Senior Ralph Webb completed his stellar college career with 163 yards and two scores. The Vols will return a lot of guys on that defensive line, but is that a good thing? Kyle Phillips, Shy Tuttle, Kahlil McKenzie and Jonathan Kongbo have yet to live up to expectations. The next nine months is huge for their development.
2. The rushing attack struggled again
On the other side of that coin has been the brutal Tennessee rushing attack. The Vols have RBs John Kelly and Ty Chandler, but the offensive line isn’t doing them any favors. Injuries took their toll on what already was an underachieving group. Saturday, Tennessee ran for 55 yards and averaged only 2.6 yards per carry against a Vandy defensive line that isn’t exactly the Steel Curtain. Vandy had been surrendering 289.1 rushing yards per game in SEC action.
3. This was Vanderbilt’s time to shine
Ever since Robert Neyland showed up in Knoxville, the Tennessee-Vanderbilt rivalry has been a one-sided affair. From 1928 to 2011, the Commodores only won nine times. But Vanderbilt has won four of the past six in the series. It has gotten so bad that after the game, Vanderbilt players attempted to plant a Commodores flag on the Neyland Stadium turf, only to be stopped by some Tennessee players and athletic department personnel. Even thinking this was a possibility is a greater insult to the Tennessee program than the times when opposing fans from Alabama and Georgia have taken over the building, as has happened in recent years.
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