The Day After
Tennessee showed grit and fight in a 38-12 loss to Georgia. We review the loss with The Day After.
HOT AND NOT
Jarrett Guarantano – Particularly second half Guarantano. The signal caller was 7 of 11 for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns in the second half. On the Vols two scoring drives, Guarantano was 6 of 8 for 88 yards as Tyson Helton threw it on 8 of 15 snaps.
Joe Doyle – In Doyle's first true road game, the Knoxville native was terrific averaging 47 yards on 7 punts. Georgia didn't have a punt return all afternoon. Punting the football was a real question in the preseason. A question that Doyle has answered well.
Fight – Give Tennessee create at 24-0 after the first possession of the third quarter, the Vols could have rolled over. At that point, Tennessee hadn't crossed midfield and back to back shutouts looked like a realistic possibility. But maybe in some growing leadership and an evolving mindset, Tennessee dug in and battled back to make it a football game in the second half. Now, the Vols weren't going to win, but they didn't head to the bus early either.
Turnovers – Call it bad luck, call it being unfortunate or whatever, but when do you see a team force a fumble only to have the offense recovery it and take it 31 yards into the endzone for six. Georgia fumbled four times, recovering all of them and the Vols dropped an interception as well. Tennessee needs help to win but Saturday ball didn't bounce their way as the Dawgs laid it on the ground four times.
The game clock – It's well known that Tennessee doesn't have enough depth. With a lack of depth, the defense must gave off the field. They didn't do that on Saturday as Georgia possessed the football 14:54 longer than Tennessee. Heading into the game, opponents were just 2 of 24 in the first half on third downs. Georgia converted 3 of their first 4 third down plays which led to the Dawgs wearing down Tennessee's defense.
Tennessee's run game – It's just not very good. In two SEC games, the Vol offense is averaging just 2.8 yards a carry. Tennessee again failed to convert another 3rd and 1. Tennessee isn't going to be a great running game, but in the second half of the season, the offense must grow some in the run game.
Isaac Nauta's fumble recovery and return for a touchdown – In one of the most bad luck plays you will ever see. Darrell Taylor beats the tight end Nauta to sack Jake Fromm and force a fumble only to have Nauta recover the fumble and take it 31 yards into the endzone for a 7-0 lead.
Fromm to Ridley for a first down – After closing the gap to 24-12, Tennessee had a chance to keep the pressure on the Dawgs and force a 3 and out, but Fromm hit Ridley for 10 yards and a first down. Georgia would grind the Vols on a 7 minute scoring drive to make it 31-12 and end the game.
Guarantano to Palmer for six – Josh Palmer had one catch as he caught a 37 yard touchdown play from Guarantano. The play epitomizes what Tennessee wants the Vol offense to look like. It was blocked well up front giving Guarantano time and schematically Tennessee got Palmer matched up with a linebacker.
Pruitt's post game press conference – Pruitt is about as no nonsense as they come. He's honest, but hesitant to compliment his football tea. Pruitt has said since the pre-season he likes this team. Saturday night is appreciation for his undermanned team was obvious as he spoke of his teams second half fight. The question now is how much can they build on it.
BY THE NUMBERS
41% – On 3rd and 4th downs with 3 yards or less to go, Tennessee is just 7 of 17 on the year. Saturday, Tennessee had two 3rd and 1 plays in the first quarter and failed to convert both of them.
3 – Number of sacks by Darrell Taylor. The most by any Vols since Derek Barnett did it in 2016. Coming into the game Taylor had 3 career sacks.
0 – Number of plays of over 25 yards given up by the Vol defense on Saturday after giving up 4 last week to Florida. Tennessee avoided the major defensive busts.
-9 – Tennessee's turnover margin in the last three games. With very little margin for error, the offense must possess the ball and defensively they must generate some takeaways.
Give credit to outside linebacker Darrell Taylor. The redshirt junior had 5 tackles and one tackle for loss coming into Saturday's game. In Athens, Taylor had 6 tackles, including 3 sacks and 2 TFL's in what was the best game of his career. Taylor's ability to get pressure on the quarterback could be a big development for Pruitt's defense and their growth in the second half of the season.
BIGGEST QUESTION/CONCERN MOVING FORWARD
The biggest concern for the Vols is a growing concern and that is health. The off week comes at a great time as Marquez Callaway suffered a concussion and several other players got beat up including Riley Locklear.
However, it's not just guys that were knocked out of the game. It's the number of guys banged up. Guarantano is beat up. Trey Smith is battling through injury as are Bryce Thompson and Alontae Taylor in the secondary. Micah Abernathy got beat up on Saturday as well.
The key for Tennessee's continued growth and how this team performs down the stretch of the season hinges in part to how healthy they can remain. After a physical game on Saturday, the open date probably comes at a good time when you consider what's coming down the stretch of the season.
The other question is the offense. What direction does Pruitt and his offensive staff take the offense? Do they remain a conservative run first unit or do they open things up more like they did in the second have on Saturday.