The Day After
Tennessee continues to find a way. The Vols overcame self inflicted errors for a 24-20 win at Missouri thanks in part to a record setting night passing the football. We review the Vols 6th win with The Day After.
HOT AND NOT
The Vol receivers — Tennessee has long been known as wide receiver U and have had many great receivers come through the program. Before Saturday night no trio of wide receivers had ever had 100 yards in the same game. Josh Palmer had 6 catches for 124 yards, Marquez Callaway had 6 receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown, and Jauan Jennings had 5 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. Tennessee’s wideouts were thought to be the strength of the offensive coming into the season. They were terrific Saturday night in a record setting performance.
Daniel Bituli — Thursday night on VolCalls, Jeremy Pruitt called Bituli a special player and Saturday night he was special. The linebacker continues his stellar play. Bituli led the Vols will 12 tackles and a sack.
Trey Smith — The rewatch of the game is going to be fun for Smith who was the Vols best lineman as he routinely pancaked Missouri defenders. The Vol offensive line was by no means great on Saturday night, but Smith was definitely impressive. And as an offensive line, there is continued growth in their physicality has been a big part of this turnaround.
The middle eight — Pruitt was asked this week about his decisions all year to be aggressive at the end of the half. Tennessee’s aggressiveness Saturday night paid big dividends as the Vols scored 10 points in the final 1:36 to turn a 10-7 deficit into a 17-10 lead. Tennessee’s defense was again good on the opening drive of the second half forcing a punt to start the second half for the 7th straight game.
The kicking game — Tennessee had two field goals blocked in the same game for the first time in 10 years. Ty Chandler mishandled a fair catch of a kickoff late in the fourth quarter. And the Vols punt game continues to struggle as Paxton Brooks averaged just 39.5 yards a punt and failed to pin Missouri inside the 20 when Pruitt elected to punt the ball instead of going for it in the third quarter.
Discipline — Tennessee overcame three offensive penalties on one drive for a touchdown, but Vols finished with 7 penalties for 60 yards including a dumb late hit out of bounds by Shawn Shamburger. The Vols also overcame a fourth quarter fumble by Tim Jordan that was caused by Jordan carrying the football the wrong hand. Pruitt has routinely talked about this team not playing a complete game or a clean game. They were far from it on Saturday night. Had the Vols not had the self-inflicted wounds, they would have won going away.
Guarantano to Jauan Jennings on 3rd and 5 with 2 minutes to play —The route was great. The ball was on time and on target. It sealed the game. The best part about the play was that in the huddle during the Missouri timeout, Jennings demanded the ball telling everyone to trust him. Jennings won’t go down in history as the greatest receiver to wear the orange and white. He will go down as one of the toughest, most physical and most importantly most clutch receivers the Vols have had.
Gurantano to Callaway for 31 yards on 3rd and 8 on the game winning drive—With the game tied at 17 and the ball at the Vol 47 out of field goal range, Guarantano hit Callaway on a 31 yard post pass on 3rd and 8 to keep the drive alive. Guarantano hit Callaway three plays later on a 17 yard touchdown pass for the game winning score.
Henry To’oTo’o tackles Kelly Bryant for a 2 yard loss —On 3rd and 3 with just under 4 minutes to go, the freshman linebacker closed the gap and tackled Bryant for a 2 yard loss that made it 4th and 5 forcing Missouri, who had 3 timeouts to punt the ball back to the Vols. The Tigers would not get the ball back.
The final snap — It might sound cheesy to call it a defining moment, but if someone would have said following the Vols uncompetitive outing at Florida that Jarrett Guarantano would help lead this team on a run of winning 5 of 6 to get bowl eligible most would have called you nuts. But give this team and this coaching staff a ton of credit. Maybe it was the meeting the team had as the returned Saturday night after losing at Florida. Whatever the case, the seniors on this team have led, the coaches have played to this teams strengths and somehow after a horrific September this team has a chance at 7 wins and get to a Florida bowl.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
9—That’s the number of completions the Vols had of over 20 yards Saturday night. They had seven in the first half. Jim Chaney loves to chunk it deep and they chunked it down the field all night long. Conversely, the Vol defense has only given up 29 plays this season of 20 yards or more and only gave up 2 Saturday night.
54 of 88 for 906 yards 7 TD’s 1 INT — Jarrett Guarantano’s numbers since the ill fated 4th down sneak at Alabama. Guarantano in relief led the Vols to wins over South Carolina, UAB, and Kentucky. Then in his return as a starter, Guarantano had the best night of his career. Quite a story for a player who was scorned by the Big Orange Nation.
2070 — Jauan Jennings career receiving yards total which moves him into 6th all time in school history in yards receiving. Jennings has 886 yards this season and with 114 more yards this year will become the first Vol to have a thousand yard receiving season since Justin Hunter led the Vols with 1,083 yards in 2012 which was ironically in Jim Chaney’s offense.
8 and 4 — Number of PBU’s and interceptions Nigel Warrior has this season to lead the Vols in both categories. Coming into the year, Warrior had just five PBU’s and one interception in three years of play.
The trio of Vol receivers deserve game balls for sure. Bituli continues to play lights out as does Nigel Warrior.
But honestly is there a better story in college football than Jarrett Guarantano? There’s certainly not a better story of redemption than the redshirt junior signalcaller.
Guarantano put himself in some elite company throwing for 415 yards and two touchdowns as he went 23 of 40 on a cold night at Missouri.
Guarantano’s play should earn him SEC Player of the Week honors and it has the Vols in position to be in the Sunshine State for a bowl game.
BIGGEST QUESTION/CONCERN MOVING FORWARD
It’s all about finishing things off. Vanderbilt routed ETSU in front of basically no one and the Commodores have nothing to play for other than to spoil Tennessee’s senior day. So can the Vols finish?
The Vols have been the more talented team the last three years but haven’t gotten it done losing three straight to the ‘Dores getting outscored 125-71 including last years 38-13 defeat.
Tennessee’s goal is simple. Finish. They must play with more discipline. They need to play cleaner football. The next step is to blow someone out.
The bottom line don’t lose to this Vanderbilt team.