The Vols got a much-needed 31-13 victory over South Carolina Saturday. Here is a look at the numbers that made it happen.
1 — Big middle finger to the “ Tennessee traditionalists.” For the first time since 1921, the Vols donned black jerseys. The record in the black jersey’s return is now 1-0, hardly the catastrophic event some of the “traditionalists” promised for such a blasphemous action. Not only did the Vols come out with a different level of intensity, but they also impressed recruits all over the nation — something vital for a program whose success hinges on the ability to be able to pull recruits out of rivals’ backyards. Those fans that want to whine about black jerseys can do what I tell them when they ask me to sit down during the game — for that you can just use your imagination.
21 — First-half points for UT off three South Carolina turnovers. The Tennessee defense, led by hard-hitting freshman safety Janzen Jackson and linebacker Rico McCoy, essentially ended the game early by virtue of their turnovers. It is also noteworthy the efficiency the Vols’ offense displayed, capitalizing every time the Gamecocks put the ball on the ground. The three scores came on a pair of touchdown passes by Crompton and a ridiculous run by Hardesty that put the Gamecocks in a hole from which they could not recover. The Vols have scored 93 points off 16 forced turnovers in eight games, while surrendering 14 turnovers of their own for a combined 33 points. Despite a myriad of injuries, in particular at middle linebacker, the Vols’ defense continues to excel, forcing four turnovers in the game. Turnovers were the key to victory Saturday, and the Vols won that battle and subsequently the ballgame.
175 — minutes Tennessee’s defense went without giving up a touchdown before Stephen Garcia ended the streak in the third quarter on a pass to Moe Brown. The last touchdown by an offense against the Vols’ defense was all the way back in the Auburn game on Oct. 3. That includes games against Georgia and second-ranked Alabama. The middle linebacker led the way on defense with 10 tackles, two forced fumbles and a pass deflection. McCoy continues to get better each week he plays in Monte’s system. Some questioned whether or not Kiffin’s coaching system translated to the college game. Clearly they were mistaken. The Vols entered the week ranked 10th in total defense and did nothing on Saturday to hurt that ranking.
199 — Net rushing yards for Tennessee in the game. Even though South Carolina won the battle of total yardage 365 to 341, the Vols dominated the rushing game, holding South Carolina to 66 net yards on the ground. Montario Hardesty had one of the most special 15-yard runs I have seen out of a Tennessee tailback since the departure of the shifty Travis Stephens after the 2001 season. In addition, Hardesty rushed for 121 yards on just 23 carries and two touchdowns. That kind of production out of Hardesty not only makes life easier for quarterback Jonathan Crompton but also the Tennessee defense that stands rested and ready on the sideline while he chews up the clock.
2 — tackles for Eric Berry against South Carolina. The Vols’ top player has been absent as of late, but don’t assume that means he’s playing poorly. Each week, teams plan to keep Berry from beating them. If he lines up on the left, the opposition will go right. If he’s up in the box to stop the run, the defense will try to throw over him. They simply don’t want him getting his hands on the ball. Credit the rest of the Vols’ defense for stepping up to the challenge. Spurrier felt like he could take advantage of Jackson’s inexperience, but Jackson had other ideas. He had seven tackles, a forced fumble and a pass break-up in the game to go along with numerous bone-jarring hits. Jackson has all the makings of a standout at safety, and if team’s want to continue to avoid Berry, Jackson is ready and waiting.
Monday Morning Scoreboard
Published: Mon Nov 02, 2009