Tennessee football: Losing big to Alabama has to be taken in stride
There wasn’t much to be learned about Tennessee’s football team against Alabama on Saturday. Let’s face it. The Vols couldn’t beat Bama, they could only beat themselves. Neither happened.
Like every other Crimson Tide opponent this season, the Vols were completely overwhelmed in a 58-21 loss. It was a stark reminder of just how far the Vols have to climb to be an elite program again — or even a program that can compete with the elite.
While fans and analysts didn’t come away from the UT-Bama game with any new understanding of the direction of Tennessee’s football program, Jeremy Pruitt claims he did.
“I think we learned a lot about our football team today,” Pruitt said Saturday. “There are some guys we had on our team that this game was way too big for them, and I think everyone was able to see that. It helps us, and we’ll move on with it. We play a good football team next week, so we have to go back to work (Sunday) and get ready for South Carolina.”
That comment by Pruitt makes things crystal clear. There are no excuses for coming up short against any team, including a historically great one. That standard may be unreasonably high for these Vols, but it is a good bar for Pruitt’s program to be judged by long-term.
For the Vols, the stark truth is that you can’t even compare these two programs right now. Alabama has a former Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback on its bench (Jalen Hurts) and another (Tua Tagovailoa) leading a historic run through college football. Tennessee has, well, Keller Chryst as its backup quarterback.
Chryst may prove to play an important role for the Vols depending on Jarrett Guarantano’s status. The sophomore was knocked out of the Saturday’s game in the second quarter. The timing was incredibly unfortunate. Guarantano was seemingly just hitting his stride after his performance last week at Auburn. Now, we’ll wait to see when he returns and what sort of shape he’s in.
If a change at quarterback is necessary, then it shouldn’t affect Tennessee’s approach on offense. UT offensive coordinator Tyson Helton needs to continue to be aggressive. The Vols had no chance on Saturday. However, the Vols have the ability to beat every remaining team on their schedule. No, Tennessee won’t win out, but they won’t face anything like they did against Alabama. They at least have a chance to win every other Saturday.
Chryst proved capable. The senior transfer from Stanford completed 9 of 15 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. With a wide receiver corps that can compete with any in the country, the Vols are best when they’re aggressive downfield.
So what does Jeremy Pruitt say to these Vols, who have been beaten down so many times, after a lopsided loss to Bama? For the seniors who will never enjoy a win over Alabama, Pruitt should remind them that they’re helping rebuild a once-proud program. For the underclassmen, they should know that the Vols have actually competed with some success against Bama. No, really. After a 28-0 first quarter, the Vols did continue to fight.
For recruits, Saturday’s game is a magnificent reminder that the Vols need players. Have game? Play early and often at Tennessee.
In a series of streaks, Bama just made history. The longest-ever winning streak between the two teams is now 12 wins in a row. In that sense, the Vols were historically bad. However, given the context of the standing of these two programs, wiser judgment should prevail for the foreseeable future.