Tennessee headed into its game on Saturday with the optimism that it could pull off another upset. Looking back on the game, the Vols should’ve been celebrating a victory.
But, as we’ve seen with many games over the past few years, they let this one slip away. Tennessee came out with a fantastic gameplan. It forced South Carolina to defend its playmakers in the short game, looking for open space.
It worked for a few quarters. The Vols took a 21-9 lead on a Jauan Jennings crossing pattern in which he fought his way into the end zone. Jennings, however, drew an unsportsmanlike penalty on the same play. That was all the Gamecocks needed to get back into the game: field position.
South Carolina found a way to score just before the half. It seemed like Tennessee never truly recovered from it.
Throw in a crazy play on the goal line — which looked to many eyes like a fumble — and the Vols were in trouble. “Well it was definitely a fumble,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said postgame.
“I saw that, but unfortunately for the officials, they only have certain angles they can see, and from their angles, they didn’t see that. You can look at it on our film, it’s obviously a fumble. It was disappointing for me because I could see it on the sideline, but they have a tough job to do, just like we have a tough job to do, and those guys are doing the best they can, and they have to take what they have to work with it,” he added.
It’s a play that could have turned everything around. It was a bad night for SEC officiating.
One thing that stood out to me on Saturday night: the lack of explosive plays downfield. It’s not news to anyone who has watched this squad. It remains a lack of talent, not a lack of effort.
“I think we did a good job offensively giving them different looks,” Pruitt said on Monday. “We have been pretty multiple the last three games if you go back to the Auburn game, Alabama, and this game. We have presented a lot of problems for those defenses just being able to line up formation wise, giving them different looks, and different personnel. One thing we didn’t do was create a lot of explosive plays”.
I have no doubt that this team is getting better. They continue to show fight. This young group is showing signs of future success. It would sure be nice for them to have 15 extra days of chemistry-building come December.
There are many different aspects of this team that need to be worked on, but effort isn’t one of them. Unfortunately, heart alone won’t get them to a bowl game. This team has to stick together, pick each other up and try to win four games – all of which are very winnable.
I’d sure hate to see the season end after Thanksgiving. And I imagine there are a whole bunch of guys working right now that feel the same way.