By Steve Williams
This was the game that would give us a clue on how the 2018 football season might go for Tennessee.
The 2-1 Vols had showed promise in a first half comeback against a good West Virginia team in the opener. They started slowly against ETSU but ended up winning big. Their 24-point total against UTEP was a little alarming, but they did post a shutout.
Florida would be the litmus test even though these Gators didn’t appear to be as tough as usual. They had lost to Kentucky in the Swamp, so they couldn’t be that good.
I underestimated Kentucky and Florida and never dreamed Tennessee would play so poorly.
The fallout from the Vols’ 47-21 loss to the Gators …
It felt even worse than the final score.
I can’t remember a worse performance by a UT team and I started watching in the mid-1960s of the Doug Dickey era …
The Vols opened as a 32½-point underdog in this past Saturday’s scheduled game at Georgia …
Once again, a new UT head coach doesn’t have suitable personnel to fit his offensive system. Remember Butch Jones trying to run a read option attack with Justin Worley, a pro-style quarterback? Now, Jeremy Pruitt is trying to pound the rock with a passive and porous offensive line.
Except for Josh Dobbs, Jones didn’t have another true dual-threat QB in his five seasons at UT. Jarrett Guarantano was probably the closest to having that skill set, but Butch picked Quinten Dormady to start ahead of him at the beginning of last season.
I believe Pruitt will have the offensive linemen he needs for his system in a couple of years …
Tennessee and Kentucky have swapped their traditional roles this year. The Big Blue is looking like a football school for a change, while the Big Orange’s basketball image continues to climb on the national scene …
You can make statistics say about anything you want and some in the local media tried to excuse the sizeable loss to Florida on UT’s numerous turnovers. Sure, the six turnovers made the final score lopsided, but give the Gators credit for the turnovers they forced, like the blindside hit that jarred the ball from Guarantano’s grasp.
Unforced errors hurt even worse, like the one where the UT tight end lost control of the ball when he was tackled inside the Florida 5 and it rolled through the back of the end zone for a touchback.
Another turnover – Tennessee losing a fumble on the second half kickoff – led to the Gators cashing in a TD just 15 seconds into the third quarter. That made it 33-3.
Brightest spots in the darkness … Guarantano pulled the ball down and took off running for a first down at the Florida 23 on the last play of the first quarter. He needs to do that more often … With the game all but over, the UT defense stormed in and sacked the Florida QB at the Gators’ 9-yard line. They need to sell out and do that more often … UT freshman running back Jeremy Banks displayed fire and passion and scored on a blast from the 2 with five minutes left in the game. More Vols need to play with such determination.
After the showing against Florida, some experts were forecasting Tennessee to get only one more win this season, against Charlotte in early November, and finish the season 3-9.
Yes, upsets can happen. You may have heard about Old Dominion upsetting Virginia Tech 49-35 on the same day the Vols lost to Florida. But did you know Charlotte defeated Old Dominion 28-25 the week before that?
Bottom line: Charlotte is not a gimmie.