Rapid Reaction: Unbelievable. Tennessee leads most of the night, stumbles at end against BYU
Tennessee needed a bounceback performance after its historically bad loss against Georgia State in its season opener. In walked Brigham Young on Saturday.
Unfortunately, the result was the same as Week 1: an unbelievably painful loss.
Here are 6 takeaways from the Vols’ dramatic 29-26 loss in double overtime.
Tennessee’s finish finished them
The Vols couldn’t make key stops in the 4th quarter or overtime. That wasn’t all of the defense’s fault. UT could have managed the clock much better in overtime. It’s become readily apparent that Jeremy Pruitt, who is in his second year as a head coach, is in way over his head. Can he overcome his shortcomings? Perhaps, but it looks doubtful.
Jauan Jennings is Tennessee’s best mismatch
Jennings was a force.
The most dramatic play was his TD catch in overtime, in which he wrestled a contested throw from a BYU defender. The extra point forced a second OT.
He was a beast all night, but especially in the opening half. Jennings has more physical ability than most defensive backs that will cover him this season — which he clearly demonstrated on the OT catch. He also has an innate ability to catch the ball in traffic. Covered or not, Jennings needs to be a frequent target in UT’s passing game. There’s no doubt that’s why Jarrett Guarantano went to him with the game on the line.
He finished with 2 TDs.
The Vols need more stretch plays
UT’s youth on the offensive line will prevent it from simply manhandling opposing defensive fronts. However, the Vols were effective against BYU on stretch run plays. That needs to be a point of emphasis moving forward. Those plays also take advantage of UT’s speed at tailback, most notably via Tyson Chandler and Eric Gray. Tennessee was ineffective when its coaches simply decided to run straight ahead against BYU’s stout defensive front.
Play-action is key
Guarantano isn’t going to confuse anyone with his overall handle of the game. However, he’s efficient with a strong rushing attack that allows him time in the pocket to make up for his deficiencies. The key is that the Vols must be able to run the football. That will continually be a challenge in the SEC, but it worked on Saturday against BYU despite Guarantano’s inconsistency.
Alignment is still an issue
Compared to UT’s defensive alignment issues against Georgia State, the Vols deserve a medal for their pre-snap sets against BYU. Still, the Vols had their issues. It’s fair to wonder just who is in charge of UT’s defense considering Pruitt is a lifelong defensive coach and the Vols have a reshuffled defensive staff.
The Vols aren’t very good
Sorry for the understatement, but it’s worth noting that a tipped, 1st-half pass in the end zone kept the Vols in the game. The play resulted in a Jennings touchdown. If not, the Vols wouldn’t have ever had the upper hand that they enjoyed until the 4th quarter.
They didn’t quit Saturday. That was a concern. But they fell to 0-2. That’s an even bigger concern moving forward.