Paschall: Surging Vols don’t seem to mind playing lengthier games

Tennessee Athletics photo / Tennessee’s 46 touchdowns through seven games and the TV timeouts that have followed are among the factors leading to Volunteers contests lasting an average of more than three hours and 43 minutes.

This Tennessee game is under further review.

The average length of college football games continues to knock on the door of three hours and 25 minutes, and the 7-0 Volunteers are 0-7 when it comes to playing a contest in less than that time. Few noticed the thriller against Alabama lasting three hours and 55 minutes when Chase McGrath was booting his 40-yard field goal with two seconds left.

Yet the three hours and 45 minutes it required to complete Tennessee's 65-24 drubbing of UT Martin on Saturday felt like it and then some.

"I have to admit I was dozing in and out of that fourth quarter on my couch," a buddy of mine said Saturday night.

It's best to budget four hours for Tennessee games, as they are taking more than 3:43 to complete. Vols fans are happy to sit or stand for that duration as long as their beloved team keeps averaging a nation-leading 50.1 points per game, because the transition from a touchdown to an extra point to a kickoff has always been more fun when it's your team doing the scoring.

Injuries and penalties are unavoidable factors that cause stoppages as well, but one issue brought up by LSU coach Brian Kelly late last week was instant replay. Upset with five reviews during LSU's 45-35 win at Florida the previous Saturday, the first-year Tigers coach said on his radio show that instant replay was "ruining the game."

The Southeastern Conference announced late last week that the average review is taking one minute and 26 seconds, but it felt triple that when a pair of plays were reviewed in the early stages of the fourth quarter inside Neyland Stadium with the Vols up 58-14.

"Sure it can affect the length of the game," Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said, "but at the end of the day, don't we all want everybody to get as much right as you possibly can and let the players on the field decide it? I think it's an important part of the game."

The increase in game lengths is giving players additional time to catch their breath compared to those who competed a generation ago, but Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker doesn't always feel that way.

"I don't know if we catch our breath," Hooker said. "We go so fast that it doesn't seem like we're getting a break. It's more like a quick hiatus and we're right back at it.

"It definitely drags out, but I enjoy every moment of it, whether I'm out there or on the sideline."


Up next for the No. 3 Vols is a visit Saturday night from No. 19 Kentucky.

With Tennessee averaging 43.3 points per game against league opposition and the Wildcats allowing just 19.8 against SEC foes, it would stand to reason that the fewer points scored the better for Kentucky coach Mark Stoops. The first Heupel-Stoops showdown took place in Lexington last November and was a 45-42 Vols win.

"You just never know how these games are going to play out," Stoops said. "By any means necessary, you've got to try to win the game. Last year was a shootout, and we had our opportunities to win it and didn't, and you know when you're playing Tennessee, without question, they're going to score points, so you have to try to match that.

"I don't think you get nervous or anxious the higher the score. It just is what it is. When playing Tennessee, you're definitely concentrating on yourself. You're trying to score as many as you can and obviously playing as good on defense as you can."

The Vols opened Sunday as 13-point favorites in the first meeting of ranked teams in this rivalry since 1951.


Georgia, which opened Sunday as a 22-point favorite over Florida, beat Oregon and South Carolina by a combined 97-10 last month. Since those outcomes, however, the Ducks and Gamecocks are a combined 10-0.

South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said the environment at Williams-Brice Stadium for Saturday night's 30-24 downing of Texas A&M "may be the greatest I've ever been a part of." Beamer's 5-2 Gamecocks moved into Sunday's Associated Press poll at No. 25, while the skidding Aggies are now 3-4 for the first time as an SEC member.

"We're right there," Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher said. "It's not like we're getting run out of the stadium. We'll find a way to make a play or two and all of a sudden get over the hump. That's just the way it goes."


The two closest SEC programs continue to be miles apart when they compete, as Alabama defeated Mississippi State for a 15th consecutive time Saturday night, rolling 30-6. In Mike Leach's three attempts against the Crimson Tide as coach of the Bulldogs, they have been outscored 120-15.

"We've got some guys who are afraid of the jersey that says 'Alabama' on it," Leach said. "We spend a lot of time frightened of their jerseys. You want to scare some of the guys on our team? Put an Alabama jersey on.

"It'll scare the hell out of them."

Alabama cruised despite compiling just 290 total yards, with junior receiver Jermaine Burton collecting two receptions for 40 yards. Tide coach Nick Saban was asked afterward why Burton played following the video that surfaced of him striking a female Vols fan during the frenzied aftermath of Tennessee's 52-49 upset triumph.

"I don't know how many of you have been in a situation like that," Saban said in a news conference. "I talked to him. He was scared. I was scared. Some of our other players were scared. I think you learn to respect other people, because we have a responsibility to do that, regardless of the circumstance that we're in. We have him in a counseling program. It's not an anger management program as people announced today. Nobody ever said that.

"That's not the problem and that's not the issue. It's about having the proper respect for other people, and I didn't think it was necessary to suspend the guy. If you knew the whole story, maybe you wouldn't either, but I'm not going to divulge that."


Tennessee's 40-13 win at LSU on Oct. 8 is all the more impressive after the Tigers routed previously undefeated Ole Miss 45-20 Saturday in Baton Rouge.

"We weren't as far away in that Tennessee game as the score indicated," Kelly said. "I went for it on a lot of fourth-down situations that exacerbated the score, but we didn't play that game to keep it close. We played it to win it, but we didn't play very well that day.

"Tennessee was the better football team that day, but when we watched the tape and looked at it, we felt we were a better football team even though perceptually we got lit up."


Vanderbilt's 17-14 loss at Missouri marked its 25th consecutive SEC setback and the fifth decided by one possession.

"I'm interested in growing and learning from this, and that's what we'll do," Commodores coach Clark Lea said.

Contact David Paschall at