By Jimmy Hyams
Coaches like to say bulletin board material is immaterial.
They like to say what happened the year before has no bearing on this season’s game.
They like to say any pregame posturing of offseason attacks dissipate with the first hit.
If that’s true, why do coaches – and players – constantly make reference to something an opposing coach or opposing player or the media said, or to the point spread?
Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin was quick to mention Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher might have a clown’s suit that Kiffin could wear for Halloween after Fisher called Kiffin a “clown act’’ during the offseason.
Ole Miss beat Texas A&M 31-28.
That brings me to this: Will Missouri be motivated this week after last year’s 62-24 blowout loss to the Vols in Columbia. Mo?
Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz will tell you the 2021 game will not influence Saturday’s noon kickoff at Neyland Stadium.
But if you listen to what he really said, you know differently.
On the SEC Teleconference this week, I asked Drinkwitz if he’s talked to his team about the Missouri Massacre at the hands of Tennessee last year or did he flush it like it didn’t happen?
“It definitely happened,’’ Drinkwitz said. “It’s definitely something, as a coach, you always remember being embarrassed like that. But we’ve not discussed it this week or this year.’’
When a coach says “being embarrassed like that,’’ that means he hasn’t forgotten.
Drinkwitz said the results of last year’s whipping has no bearing on this year’s game.
“They don’t get to carry over any of those points and we don’t get to carry over any of those turnovers,’’ Drinkwitz said.
No, but you can carry over a grudge.
As Drinkwitz said: “We’re aware of what they did to us last year.’’
What Tennessee did was humiliate Missouri. The Vols led 28-3 after the first quarter and 45-10 at halftime. The game was so lop-sided, UT went into its four-minute offense throughout the second half, content to run out the clock rather than run up the score.
The Vols gained 683 total yards, rushed for 458 yards and five touchdowns, and passed for three touchdowns. UT had three players rush for at least 76 yards and six rush for at least 38 yards.
Don’t expect an encore from Tennessee’s offense.
Missouri has the most improved defense in the SEC – by far.
Last year, Missouri ranked last in the SEC in run defense (227.4 yards per game), and 13th in scoring defense (33.8 points) and total defense (434.2).
This year, Missouri has gone from 109 in the nation in total defense to 13. It ranks fourth in the SEC in scoring defense (21.4), run defense (111.2), pass defense (192.4) and total defense (303.7). It has not allowed an SEC team to score more than 26 points.
And it led top-ranked Georgia by 10 points in the fourth quarter before falling 26-22.
The Tigers have a new defensive coordinator ( Blake Baker), new personnel in the form of transfers, a new attitude and a new philosophy.
As Drinkwitz said this week, the Tigers will have a “different scheme than the one we trotted out there in the first quarter’’ against the Vols last year.
Will it be a scheme similar to the one run by Georgia? The Bulldogs held UT to season lows in points (13) and total yards (289).
Was Georgia’s scheme the blueprint to contain UT’s high-powered offense. Perhaps, but you better have Georgia’s talent. It helps to have NFL defensive linemen, NFL pass rushers and NFL defensive backs.
Tennessee offensive coordinator Alex Golesh wasn’t keen on being asked if Georgia had the blueprint.
“In terms of a blueprint, I think they have really good players,’’ Golesh said. “I think there’s a lot of teams in this league that have really good players. We’ve played (against) really good players. They played better than us on Saturday.
“The environment was, at times, not handled well by us – both players and coaches. That’s on the coaches in terms of not being ready in that aspect.’’
Golesh said pre-snap penalties (UT had seven) and execution were UT’s biggest problems.
Did Georgia defend Tennessee differently than other opponents?
“If the question is: `Did they out-scheme us and did we have no idea what was going on?’ Absolutely not,’’ Golesh said.
“They had a really good scheme. They played really well. We have a really good scheme. We did not play well. Schematically, we were sound.
“So, blueprint, yes, the blueprint for those guys, really good players, really good coaches. Awesome. We have really good players, really good coaches.
“On that day, in that 60 minutes, they were better than us. We screwed up a bunch with pre-snap penalties.’’
In addition to pre-snap penalties, the Vols didn’t do a good job of handling Georgia’s blitz, providing quarterback Hendon Hooker with hot routes and getting receivers open.
Will Missouri implement the same defensive scheme as Georgia?
Maybe. But without Georgia’s five-stars, you might be wishing on a star.