After the loss to Georgia State I’m sure we all made promises such as:
“I’m not giving a dime to the University of Tennessee the rest of this Season!”
“I promise you this, I’m not stepping foot in Neyland Stadium until we start winning football games!”
So, last Friday, right after work, I get a call from ChattTenn’s fearless leader Tres Winn, with the “I’ve got $20 lower bowl tickets” call.
After all those false promises I made after Georgia State, where am I headed Saturday around 3:00 PM?
NORTH TO KNOXVILLE!
Upon arrival to campus on Saturday you could feel the cautiously optimistic vibe from Vol fans. You know this team can be better and that maybe Georgia State was a fluke and no way this team comes out flat again.
Also, if you watched the Holy War (Utah vs. BYU) the week before, there was reason to be optimistic based off BYU’s performance week 1. You could see they struggled on the O-line and they just didn’t look nearly as fast as Utah. I understand, that the Vols’ performance against Georgia State should not have given anyone optimism, but it’s the allure of what this Tennessee team could be is why Knoxville had hope.
Both fan bases showed up. Impressed by the turn out of Fighting Mormon fans. A lot of blue walking around before the game and they filled their sections in Neyland.
Yet, Tennessee fans impressed me the most. Even after what may be the worst loss in program history, there were 92,000+ in Neyland. It was loud and you could tell that fans were in dire need to see improvement.
Throughout the first half you could see Tennessee players were at least going to bring the energy levels up. They were getting pressure on Wilson and you saw a little more disciplined team defensively. The secondary still had some atrocious missed assignments that were bailed out by BYU’s QB just missing open receivers.. So that leads to the entire stadium doing the simultaneous “(gasp).. We are so lucky.”
And EVERYONE noticed the players sprinting off the field during substitutions. No one wanted a recurrence of the Vol viral video of the substitution screw up on the Georgia State touchdown last week.
Offensively you could see that the Tennessee O-line came to play.They actually had push! Chandler and Gray looked fantastic. Watching Gray shake and bake on defenders makes you want to just start doing the Chris Berman “WHOOP!” everytime he gets the ball.
Now what fans all started to notice, but didn’t care as much early, was Guarantano’s lack of vision. Missing open receivers due to lack of patience and lack of confidence was the result of many people handing out the “This game was on JG” or “We’ve got to have a quarterback conversation.”
The first TD to Jennings was a poor decision that was just saved by Jennings hands off a tipped ball. And in those moments you look past, because of the result. But as the game goes on even those lucky breaks get noticed as poor decision.
This Tennessee team did not finish the half well, in my opinion. The last two Tennessee drives resulted in field goals when they should have been at minimum 10 points. On the first of the final two drives, the Vols started with solid field position on their own 38 and had a penalty go their way for a first down, some good runs from Gray, and then just three dud plays resulting in a field goal.
On the final drive in the half is where you get so frustrated as a fan. Start out the drive, basically from the 9 yard line after a holding call on first down. Then you get a 7 yard and then a big 53 yard run back to back from Chandler. So, alllll that momentum is in Tennessee’s hands. And then we can only get 9 more yards and settle for a field goal.
Good team’s finish those drives with touchdowns.
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Starting the 2nd half, Vol fans got that sick gut feeling of “We’ve seen this movie before.”
JG throws his horrendous interception on the first drive. AT BEST, if it miraculously gets by the two defenders that would pick it off, it’s a batted ball by the wide receiver’s primary defender.
That INT lead to a 3 play 20 yard Touchdown drive by the Fighting Mormons.
It was stagnant offense on both sides for a while. Four straight drives ended in Punts. The life was literally being pulled out of Volunteer nation and BYU was just not fully capitalizing. Partially due to the defense was still causing havoc on their line.
And then on the next Tennessee drive, you saw life from the offense. A couple of penalties, Eric Gray running, and a JG to Palmer connection led to a 14 play 77 yard drive that resulted in a field goal.
BYU coming right back and getting their field goal was basically leaving the door open from heartbreak.
The next Tennessee drive, Chandler comes out hot again and per usual the offense got stagnant. It comes down to a 4th & 1 and Pruitt is clearly going to go for it. And the Vols just could not get a push and JG is stuffed for no gain. How does this 4 and 5 star led line not get that push?!
Pleased to see the defense get a big stop and force BYU into 3 and out. But of course the Volunteer offense could not finish the game out and run out the clock.
So, with 1:05 left on the clock and BYU’s football on their own 8 yard line. I send out a text to the friend group:
“Preparation for heartbreak: Engage.”
92 yards to go, and yet the entire stadium knows what was about to ensue…
After doing the right things on first and 2nd down, you have one job on 3rd down here.
DON’T. GET. BEAT. DEEP.
Yet what happens, 64 yard completion Zach Wilson to Micah Simon. Still not sure what Taylor was doing on that play. Not sure if he just assumed it was a get to the sticks route or what, but it looked bad.. They kick a game tying field goal with a second left.
In the first overtime, both teams’ touchdowns came with ease. As Vol players, seeing Jennings get that TD should be this shining light of a leader carrying this team to victory. But Tennessee settled for a field goal in OT 2 and BYU comes out with a well timed reverse play and then a former South Carolina transfer, basically says “weight room” and bullies their way into the endzone for the win….
Things we saw that were good.
- Running Backs
- Front 7
- “Friends in Low Places” should be played at every game. It was the best part of Saturday. See below:
The Vols are in a scary spot. Calling for Pruitt’s head is not going to work. The university is still paying Butch and buying out Pruitt would put them in a tight spot financially. And also, who in their right mind would want to walk into this right now?
From day one, Fulmer knew he had to give Pruitt a lot of time. It was a 4 to 5 year plan, upon hiring.
There has to be a big mentality shift for the season to even swing this back into some kind of optimism for next year. Hopefully something happens this week from a confidence standpoint against UTC. That is all we have to hope for..
Your Overly Emotional Fellow Fan,
Thanks for reading guys and gals. Stay tuned every week for these “Overly Initial Reaction” articles. I’ll be bringing you all the same slightly regrettable reactions and words we all have during Tennessee Vols games.