Butch Jones should have gone for two!
Sorry, I can’t let it go.
If he had, I really believe Tennessee would have made it and beaten Texas A&M in regulation.
Then that 49-10 loss to Alabama would have been a little easier to swallow.
Then we would be 3-1 in SEC play going into this week’s game at South Carolina and not 2-2 and looking up at those Gators in the standings.
Then we wouldn’t have to worry about Florida losing another conference game. The Vols would still be controlling their own destiny as far as winning the SEC East and playing in the conference championship game.
Instead, now we have to get help from Georgia, Arkansas or LSU to beat Florida.
That’s Butch’s bad. It was a no-brainer, particularly after the Aggies jumped off sides and the two-point try could have been moved up to the 1½ -yard line.
Surely the Vols have an offensive goal-line package. They better. What if they’re behind by two points in that situation? Surely Coach Jones could have a jumbo formation prepared for a special situation when his team needs two points.
That night I would have loved to have seen Butch go for it. Joshua Dobbs under center. A burly fullback behind him. And Jalen Hurd (6-4, 240) at tailback. Hurd, the downhill runner that he really is, was born to get the ball in that kind of situation.
Here’s Butch’s answer when quizzed after the game if he considered going for two …
“Never (thought about it),” answered Jones. “You’re on the road and you’re playing well. It becomes an all-or-nothing football play. No. Everyone wants to second guess. It’s easy to sit in the TV booth and second guess because you don’t have any investment with the kids, you don’t have any investment with any of the programs, so it’s easy to speak your mind. There was no doubt in our minds that we were going to go to overtime. If I went for two and we didn’t get it, everyone would be asking me the same question – the shoulda, coulda, wouldas.”
I disagree with that assumption, too. I believe most Tennessee fans would have appreciated Jones going for two and the win in that situation. Tennessee was on the road. It had overcome all those turnovers and had the momentum.
The Vols also had suffered several injuries and from that standpoint were in better shape to end the game right then, instead of trying to continue and win it in overtime.
Let’s go back to that night for a second and relive the play that gave Tennessee an opportunity to cap another great comeback win.
Malik Foreman gave us another miracle play with the Aggies leading 35-28 with just under two minutes left, and when he punched the football out of A&M runner Trayveon Williams’ grasp and through the end zone for a touchback, I felt we were destined to win.
Maybe we were even destined to go unbeaten I thought moments after Foreman gave us new life. Flashing quickly through my mind was the recovery of the fumble in the end zone to beat Appy State in the opener … the amazing second quarter turnaround against Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway … the remarkable second-half rally against Florida … the Hail Mary to shock Georgia. And now this.
I had a strong feeling we were going to go down the field and score. I told the person sitting next to me we should start considering going for two. When we did score and the Bulldogs encroached, I thought it was a no-brainer.
Tennessee was a beat-up football team but not a defeated one. The Vols needed just one more play. It was Butch’s turn to make it.
My heart sank when TV cameras showed Jones on the sideline declining the Georgia penalty.
I was very disappointed with Butch’s decision. It reminded me of his decision to kick a field goal instead of going for a touchdown with the ball so close to the goal line in the game against Oklahoma last season. That decision, I still feel, cost us the win over the Sooners that day.
Some of you may be thinking … How does a sportswriter know as much as a college football head coach who makes millions of dollars?
I don’t, but this isn’t rocket science either. It’s having a feel for the game.
Look at it this way. In that moment, do you think the Texas A&M fans were glad the Vols didn’t go for two? Sure they were. I bet 90 percent of them were relieved when the Vols went for one.
So, Butch, when you have to make game-deciding decisions in the future, remember this: Just do what the opposition doesn’t want you to do.
Jones has a lot of good attributes as a college head coach. But if he wants to take Tennessee to championships, he needs to recognize when the time is right to go for a win. Great coaches can feel it and pull the trigger.