Tennessee Vols fans happy about the season, not so happy about Vanderbilt game | Adams

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My literary contributors provided mixed reviews on Tennessee’s 45-21 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday at Neyland Stadium. But none of them were complaining about having Josh Heupel as their coach.

Their consensus grade: 74.3 on a 1-to-100-point scale. Here's a sample of their comments:

John writes: 75. Playing down to the competition is not how I envisioned this game. How many 4th downs did our defense allow them to convert?

The offense in the first half looked like they were sleep walking. The defense just had one eye open.

The 2nd and 3rd quarters were just average. The Vols made Vandy look like a real SEC team.

On to the bowl game. 7-5 exceeded my expectations.

My response: The slow start was out of character for Tennessee's offense. But the Vols still "slept walk" to 45 points.

Glenn writes: 75. Heupel Ball – fast-paced, timely throws and runs gaining chunk yardage, and double-digit scoring – is fun to watch. Fans can now closely watch for successful recruiting and hopefully some additional talent infusion via the transfer portal.

The portal should work more in Tennessee’s favor this time, as opposed to losing 20 players last year when Pruitt was fired.

Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman (4) is pursued by Vanderbilt cornerbacks Jaylen Mahoney (23) and Allan George (28) in the NCAA college football game between the Tennesse Volunteers and Vanderbilt Commodores in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, November 27, 2021.
Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman (4) is pursued by Vanderbilt cornerbacks Jaylen Mahoney (23) and Allan George (28) in the NCAA college football game between the Tennesse Volunteers and Vanderbilt Commodores in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, November 27, 2021.

My response: You are right about the transfer portal. What quarterback and receiver wouldn’t want to play in this offense?

Slim writes: I was disappointed in a ho-hum effort from the Vols. They were expected to win and played that way.

They have to find a way to stop the obvious big play attempts - the Hail Mary today and the onside kick last week as recent examples.

Was glad to get the win and end up 7-5 but I'm aching about how close 9-3 could have been with near loses against Pitt and Ole Miss.

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My response: The Vols didn’t go 7-5 by winning close games. Except for Kentucky, the close games didn’t go their way.

Mike writes: At 7-5, Tennessee HC Josh Heupel has accomplished more with less in year one than any Tennessee coach

Two examples of coaches, who, after bad times, became wildly successful: 1964 Doug Dickey 4-5-1; 1977 Johnny Majors 4-7. The loss of talent after 2020 would have crippled most teams.

My response: Dickey also had a tremendous first-year challenge. Most significantly, he had to revamp an offense that had been running a single wing.

His second Tennessee team went 8-1-2 and finished 10th nationally.

Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright (20) leaps into the end zone for a touchdown during an SEC conference game between Tennessee and Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright (20) leaps into the end zone for a touchdown during an SEC conference game between Tennessee and Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

Bill writes: 74. Vandy obviously worked on how to substitute against UT’s fast tempo. And the Large Orange seemed lethargic. It was disconcerting.

Velus Jones should get a medal for the blocking job he did on Tillman’s TD.

My response: Vanderbilt played a much better game than the score indicated, but the Vols still won going away. The Commodores will be hard-pressed to come close against Heupel’s teams.

Robert writes: 73, Congratulations to one of my all-time favorite Vol teams. The team stayed true to mission through great hardship and lack of depth.

Finally, we have a staff that knows what it’s doing. If this staff hangs with us and recruiting picks up, Tennessee could once again be a player on the national stage.

A special thanks to Tim Priest for his years of dedication to his beloved Big Orange.

My response: With a bowl victory, the Vols could become only the fourth UT team in the past 14 years to win as many as eight games.

Mike writes: 80. Too often in the regimes of Johnny, Fulmer and others UT would let up against lesser foes.

It is refreshing that Hopeful and his staff seem capable of getting the team up for every contest.

My response: If the Vols had been “up” against Vanderbilt, they would have won by 35, not 24.

Rick writes: 83. Defense still looks disorganized. A Hail Mary right before half? Really? Never should have happened. Other than that, I have no complaints except we seemed disinterested in this game.

My response: Tennessee didn’t have its usual energy to open the game. That was evident in the way Vanderbilt controlled the line of scrimmage early.

But once UT’s offense started rolling, Vanderbilt didn’t have the athletes to keep up.

Britney writes: 63. I feel funny giving such a low grade on a win. But let’s be honest, this one was not pretty. Vandy showed they definitely deserved to be in the SEC. They abused us on 4th down and moved the ball better on UT than they did against almost any other team.

ETSU's “D” only surrendered 3 points vs Vandy. It really looked like either a step back for UT or it was a little unprepared.

My response: I was surprised at how well Vanderbilt's offensive line often handled Tennessee's defensive front. The Commodores looked like Kentucky on those two long second-half touchdown drives.

Marc writes: Our play was embarrassing - mostly on defense - but Milton’s fumble takes the cake. It is actually beyond belief to play this poorly against a team that hasn’t won an SEC game.

My response: As bad as Vanderbilt has been in losing 21 consecutive SEC games, it came within 14 points of Ole Miss, South Carolina and Missouri this season. Teams often struggle to get motivated against the Commodores.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or john.adams@knoxnews.com. Follow him at: twitter.com/johnadamskns.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Tennessee Vols fans happy about the season, not Vanderbilt game

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