Jeremy Pruitt met with the media on Monday afternoon to reflect on the Auburn game. After Eric Gray rushed for over 170 yards and one touchdown, Pruitt thought it was the best game the OL has played.
“Starting offensively, I thought it was our best performance, especially up-front. I felt like we kind of dominated the line of scrimmage and created some explosive plays in the run game. I thought our backs played extremely hard.”
The Vols averaged 5.4 yards per carry and seemed to have found the right looks when opening up some holes for the running backs. This was one of those games that looking back; if Tennessee kept up those reads, the Vols might’ve put up a few more points.
“We created some explosive plays in the throw game; we were better on third down. I thought we done a nice job at getting into manageable third downs when we got behind the sticks a little bit. Probably one of the biggest plays of the game, obviously, was the interception down there. We kind of dominated the drive going down through there made a mistake which turned into points for the other team.”
Auburn went 9-15 on third down conversions, keeping the Tennessee defense on the field too long and extending drives. This came back to hurt the Vols, especially in the third quarter. The defense started to wear down, allowing the Tigers to add points. Auburn averaged 12.9 yards per competition, taking advantage of the Vols In the flats.
“We did a pretty good job stopping the run, but, to me, the big difference in the game defensively is getting off the field on third down. A couple of third-and-four and fives there, we didn’t match the patterns the right way. Had a couple of chances to finish on the quarterback and didn’t. They extended plays.”
The turning point in Saturday’s game was the interception thrown by Jarrett Guarantano, which Smoke Monday returned 100 yards for a touchdown. The Vols had driven down to the Auburn 12 yard line and had an opportunity to come out of that drive with at least a field goal. Jeremy Pruitt said it wasn’t due to it being a wrong play.
“No, that was an RPO. We obviously were late throwing the football. He knows that we can’t do that. He just made a mistake.”
Pruitt added, “Probably, one of the biggest plays of the game was the interception down there (in the Auburn end zone). We dominated the drive going down through there, and we made a mistake which turned into points for the other team.”
Guarantano was 15-23 for 156 yards and 1 interception. There were drives where Tennessee seemed in control, especially with the running game. A few missed field goals, the pick-6, and the play-calling at the end of the first half were just some problems.
“He’s done a lot of really good things for us in the game. Made a lot of good checks for us, got us in the right runs; these guys were shifting in and out of fronts. That’s important in the quarterback position. If you want to be efficient running the football, you’ve got to make sure you’re able to run in the right fronts. Obviously, there are three or four plays in the game that needed to be better, particularly that one (interception) was a game-changing play.”
Pruitt continued, “It’s something that he understands, and it’s something that can’t happen. You can’t throw the ball to the other team any time. There are going to be times that maybe you got a one-on-one shot, and you throw the ball, and somebody makes a good play. Maybe there’s a time where there’s pressure, and somebody hits you, and the ball flutters out. But that was an unforced error, and you can’t have unforced errors.”
Tennessee didn’t practice on Sunday, as Jeremy Pruitt wanted to wait until their Covid results came in on Monday, following the road game.
“Well, one of the reasons we didn’t practice yesterday, just if you look within our conference, it seems like some of the teams that have traveled the week before (have had COVID issues). We’ve been fortunate this year, but just from a precautionary standpoint, we didn’t practice yesterday so that we can get this testing back today. It’s still coming in. So, as we get the final results, we’ll have a little better idea this afternoon.”
The Vols will be looking to snap a five-game losing streak against Vanderbilt on Saturday. As with everything that’s happened so far this season, a loss to Vandy would add to what has already been a miserable seven games for the Vols. We’ll see how this team responds this week in practice.
All Images Are Courtesy Of Tennessee Athletic Communications