KNOXVILLE – The Vols dropped to 3-5 overall and 0-5 in the SEC with a 38-35 loss at South Carolina on Saturday.
Here’s Nooga.com’s weekly analysis of some of the Vols’ defining plays:
(First quarter, 6:35): Quarterback Tyler Bray hits receiver Zach Rogers for an eight-yard touchdown
UT Formation: 2 TEs (both right), FB, RB, WR split wide left
Analysis: Rogers got wide open on this one. A great pump fake by Bray and a good route from Rogers were the two main ingredients here. Rogers lines up extremely wide on the left side of the formation. That’s usually where a receiver lines up when he is running a slant route because it gives him room to get past the cornerback before getting to the linebackers. This time Rogers fakes the slant, Bray sells the pump fake and the Gamecocks’ cornerback bites on it. Rogers then cuts to the outside and Bray has an easy lob for the score.
(Second quarter, 11:34): South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw throws a 27-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rory Anderson
UT Formation: 3-3-5
Analysis: South Carolina is facing a third-and-goal from the 27-yard line here. The Vols rush three and drop the three linebackers and five defensive backs into a conservative coverage. The linebackers and extra defensive backs play an intermediate zone, while the safety and outside corners play a three-deep zone to make sure nobody gets behind the D. Shaw is able to throw it over the intermediate coverage, but safety Byron Moore and corner Justin Coleman are still in position to make the tackle around the 5-yard line. The problem is that Anderson splits the two and goes in for a score. It’s hard to pin this one on the coaches – it was set up to get the stop, but the secondary simply couldn't make the tackle.
(Second quarter, :18) Shaw runs for a one-yard touchdown
UT Formation: 6-2-3 (goal-line formation)
Analysis: I chose this play because it was a good representation of all that went wrong with the defense. The Vols called a timeout before the play, but they still look confused about where to line up and their assignments all the way up until the snap. Shaw runs an option to the left, but Jordan Williams, who is playing defensive end, doesn’t keep contain on his side and Shaw is able to walk in for a score. That’s on Williams. This play is also on the defensive staff because even if Williams had kept his contain, there was nobody there to take the pitch man. The defense was poorly designed and poorly executed in this situation.
(Fourth quarter, 15:00): Pig Howard throws a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mychal Rivera
UT Formation: Wildcat – 3 TEs right, 2 WRs left (Bray is one of them), receiver Pig Howard at QB
Analysis: The Vols have at least three variations of the Wildcat in their playbook, but so far they haven’t thrown out of any of them this season. That changed on this play. Howard takes the direct snap in the shotgun and acts like he’s running right while all of the offensive linemen and tight ends move to the right as well. Rivera slips out of the pack and gets behind the defense to get wide open. Still, credit Howard, who is not normally a quarterback and is on the run, for making an accurate throw in that situation.
(Fourth quarter, 1:17): Bray is sacked by South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and fumbles, ball recovered by Gamecocks
UT Formation: Shotgun – RB (right of Bray), 4 WRs (3 left, 1 right)
Analysis: Left tackle Tiny Richardson did a great job blocking Clowney all night, but he finally got beat on this play. It turned out to be a crucial error for the Vols. It was nothing too fancy from Clowney, he fakes inside, does a swim move to the outside and gets past Richardson (who probably should’ve been called for holding on the play as well). It doesn’t appear Bray has anybody open on the play, so he’s trying to just throw it away. Clowney comes from behind, chops his arm like the good pass rushers do, and knocks the ball out. A couple of Tennessee offensive linemen had a chance to recover the ball, but they don’t see it until it’s too late. In hindsight, it would’ve been smart to have a running back or tight end on that side to help block, but Richardson did such a good job up to that point, it’s hard to be too critical of that decision.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.