Look at that, we got back on track (sort of). Nice win yesterday, albeit a much different type of win. We haven’t seen special teams drive a big win like that in years, maybe even since Urban left. The punt block/return team wins MVP of the game for me. It’s amazing what a little attention to detail and effort from the coaching staff can do to a special teams unit. In three years of Mac, with a few exceptions, we could barely get a yard on a punt return and never dreamed of blocking one. This year, it’s the strongest unit on the team, already with two blocked punts (not including the punter fumbling yesterday) and a return for a TD after three games. Defensively, I thought it was a very solid performance and a nice bounce back after their dreadful showing against Kentucky. There were still some open field tackling issues, but nothing like last week. They also had a few times when receivers got free a bit, but when you’re playing an offense like CSU’s, that’s going to happen by design. The best sign to me was the increased intensity and effort from the defensive line. Jabari Zuniga played like a man possessed with 2.5 sacks, the defense had 5 sacks overall, and we were harassing that QB to death the whole game. Part of me wonders if the reason we got such good pressure is because we knew we could pin our ears back and go after him since he wasn’t a threat to run like UK’s QB was. It’ll be interesting to see how we handle the next dual threat QB, but the pass rush yesterday was a pleasant surprise. CJ Henderson also continues to be our best overall player on defense. Offensively, it was obviously not a great performance overall, but it was tough to really get a gauge on what they were doing because they shockingly only ran 44 plays the whole game. After scoring on a blocked punt, punt return, and several long plays, there just weren’t any sustained drives. I think Mullen is falling into the same trap Mac fell into last year by trying to play every running back equal time. At some point, you just gotta pick a horse and go with it. Scarlett still looks hesitant to hit holes when they appear, but his TD run was beautiful (with a great block by the WR on the play, can’t remember who it was). Perine remains a solid force who rarely ever loses yards, he’s always falling forward. Davis doesn’t seem 100% healthy to me, but they should honestly just use him as a pass catcher for now. Pierce is the wildcard. To steal the term once used to describe Adam Lane, he’s a bowling ball of steak knives. He’s relentless. Granted, all of his carries have come in garbage time against bad teams, but I like what I’ve seen from him so far and hope he’s patient. His time will come and I have a good feeling it’ll be glorious when it does. Franks once again showed small flashes of brilliance mixed in with some head scratchers. The pick he threw was a touchdown had he thrown it a half second sooner and not underthrown it. But then he threw some absolute missiles on seam routes that were on the money, including the TD to Swain. His last TD to Jefferson was a pretty ball, albeit slightly underthrown. His decision making still needs to improve, and my hope is that with more time in Mullen’s system, these reads will become second nature to him so he stops thinking with the ball in his hand so damn much. We also need to stop running him so much. I get that he has the ability to pick up some yards, so occasionally letting him run a draw in a passing situation or running one of those power sweeps around the end will do the job, but he doesn’t need to be getting the amount of carries he’s getting. All in all, it was a good team win yesterday. Each unit had their own great moments that contributed to the overall effort, which is what you like to see moving into the teeth of the schedule. I don’t think anyone really knows what to expect out of Tennessee this year, but one thing’s for certain, and that’s that we have the talent and coaching advantage in this game. I’m hoping to see our pass rush get to Guantanamo Bay (or whatever his name is) early and often. Make him uncomfortable from the get go. It’s Tennessee week! Let’s do this!