How bad was last Saturday’s loss to Georgia from an offensive standpoint? Not only was it the first time the Vols had been shut out since 1994, it was one of the worst performances by a Tennessee offense in yards per play in the last ten years. 2008-17 is a good benchmark as it represents Tennessee’s fall from grace, and because that’s as far back as the numbers from Sports Source Analytics go.
Because we love history more than we love feeling good about ourselves, here’s a look at Tennessee’s ten worst offensive performances in the last ten years in yards per play:
10. 2014: Florida 10 Tennessee 9 (3.43 yards per play)
Seven snaps in the Florida red zone, and all of them failed to gain a single yard. That led to three field goals and a bitter 10-9 defeat on a day most of us came to Neyland Stadium expecting the Florida streak to fall. The Vols had 29 carries for 28 yards.
9. 2008: Auburn 14 Tennessee 12 (3.35 yards per play)
While Phillip Fulmer would ultimately go down with the ship, the 2008 Clawfense was its biggest leak. It’s one thing to lose, but another to lose like this: needing only a field goal to win at #15 Auburn, the Vols started their final four drives at the Auburn 38, UT 42, Auburn 46, and UT 46. They failed to gain a single first down. Jonathan Crompton was 8-of-23 for 67 yards.
8. 2015: Oklahoma 31 Tennessee 24 (2OT) (3.34 yards per play)
Tennessee led 17-3 at halftime and gained 51 yards on the first two plays of the third quarter to move to the Oklahoma 24 yard line. But after missing a field goal, the Vols punted on their next five drives and gained no more than 11 yards on any of them before bowing out in the second overtime on an interception. Josh Dobbs was 13-of-31 for only 125 yards, and the Vols averaged just 2.9 yards per carry in a heartbreaking loss to an eventual playoff team.
7. 2008: Wyoming 13 Tennessee 7 (3.27 yards per play)
With Phillip Fulmer’s forced resignation announced earlier in the week, the Clawfense was even more lifeless against the Cowboys. Crompton and Nick Stephens combined to go 14-of-36 for 145 yards and two interceptions in a demoralizing loss to a mid-major in Knoxville.
6. 2011: South Carolina 14 Tennessee 3 (3.15 yards per play)
Derek Dooley pulled Justin Worley’s redshirt the week before, then gave him the start against the #13 Gamecocks. The Vols got a field goal after South Carolina fumbled a punt on the game’s first series, then never scored again. The Gamecocks also famously scored on a 20-play, 98-yard drive in the second half. Worley was 10-of-26 for 105 yards and two interceptions before giving way to Matt Simms again, who went 5-of-12 for 46 yards.
5. 2011: Alabama 37 Tennessee 6 (3.10 yards per play)
The week before, the Vols and Crimson Tide were actually tied 6-6 at halftime before Nick Saban’s troops ripped off a 21-point third quarter en route to another 31-point win. Matt Simms was 8-of-17 for 58 yards and an interception, which led to Worley’s entrance…where he handed the ball off.
4. 2014: Ole Miss 34 Tennessee 3 (3.08 yards per play)
Tennessee’s defense was actually pretty good in this one early against #3 Ole Miss, forcing a three-and-out on six of the Rebels’ first seven drives. But the offense could not keep Justin Worley safe and did literally nothing running the ball: 28 carries, zero yards.
3. 2009: UCLA 19 Tennessee 15 (2.97 yards per play)
I forgot how bad this one was. Lane Kiffin’s first date with FBS competition did not go well: Crompton was 13-of-26 for only 93 yards and three interceptions, leaving Montario Hardesty and Bryce Brown to run into a brick wall as the Vols had just 115 yards on 44 carires for 2.6 ypc. Two runs into the middle from 3rd-and-goal at the 3 and 4th-and-goal at the 2 kept the Vols out of the end zone in the fourth quarter and gave UCLA a big win.
2. 2017: Georgia 41 Tennessee 0 (2.73 yards per play)
Last Saturday was the second worst offensive performance of the last decade. Quinten Dormady’s 5-of-16 for 64 yards with two picks was the worst yards per attempt number (4.0) for a Tennessee starter since the number one game on this list, and the 1-for-12 conversion rate on third down (8.3%) the worst of the last ten years. Burn this film.
1. 2016: Alabama 49 Tennessee 10 (2.59 yards per play)
The Vols had 32 carries for 32 yards as injuries riddled the offensive line, scored their only touchdown on an 11-yard drive after a fumble, and were basically out of this thing at halftime even though they were only down 21-7, and had only three plays of 10+ yards before going down 28-7 in the third quarter.
Which one of these is the worst memory? Nowhere to go but up from here!