Tennessee went into the Arkansas game on a three game losing streak. This team was looking for the opportunity to flip the switch offensively and set a tone. But as they landed back in Knoxville, not much had changed.
The Vols were struggling coming out of the gate in the second half, which has cost them multiple games so far this season. This was a football team that lacked an identity and they still do.
There’s no sugarcoating what has transpired, Tennessee has been outscored 88-7 in the 3rd quarter in the last four games. That’s inexcusable, period.
The way Jim Chaney has been calling the offense for the Vols, it’s obvious why Tennessee continues to struggle, especially in the 2nd half. There’s no creativity, and it’s costing them.
Here are my three takeaways from the loss to Arkansas.
There should be major concern in the meeting rooms on why this has continued. Jim Chaney seems handcuffed by his own doing, Ok, you don’t trust your quarterback to make consistent throws, fix it. You don’t trust your wide receivers to get open in space. Ok, how would you honestly know if you don’t test your theory?
See, this is the problem, there’s no consistency on that side of the football. Jeremy Pruitt and Chaney have made the conscious decision to play Jarrett Guarantano because they feel it gives them the best chance at winning. Well, why aren’t you acting like it? If you trust him, then open up the playbook like you trust him. This has become such a problem that other teams have taken advantage of the indecisiveness, which is a contributing factor of the shortfalls.
It comes down to the QB development as well. Tennessee has had Brian Maurer and JT Shrout for almost two full seasons now. The fact you don’t have at least one of them prepared to manage a game is an indictment on the staff. You would think Tennessee could be comfortable with putting in one of the guys if needed. On Saturday night, it showed the lack of self awareness.
Explosive plays have faded and if they do come, it’s because of your WR’s breaking free. This has become a huge problem for the Vols and they don’t have much time to fix it.
Jeremy Pruitt was asked about the backup spot during his press conference.
“The circumstances at quarterback are relative to everybody around you. It takes protection, it takes a good run game, it takes wide receivers that you’ve got some chemistry with. I’m not sure that this fall’s body of work for those guys is really fair based on the circumstances that those guys were put in during fall camp and summer and without spring ball.”
Tell that to the numerous QB’s around the country that are throwing up huge numbers during Covid.
Jeremy Pruitt Questions
Tennessee’s head coach has himself a major problem, the offense has been in the sand trap for most of the season and the defense isn’t adjusting.
The Tennessee game plan was to run the football, but when Arkansas adjusted to it in the 2nd half, the Vols were lost. They never adjusted to what the razorbacks were doing on defense and it cost them. Tennessee rushed for 135 yards in the 1st half, but just 50 yards in the 2nd. The Vols punted on four consecutive possessions in the 3rd quarter, only gaining 25 yards. What exactly is happening in the locker room as they plan for the 2nd half?
The coaching hasn’t been up to par by SEC standards. Take for instance the 4th and 4, late in the game for the Vols with a chance to cut it to eight points. Pruitt decided that Harrison Bailey’s first throw of the game should be in that pressure situation. Making it an eight point game with a 42 yard field goal would’ve given the team life, instead it was an early death. Brent Cimaglia had made FG’s from 48 and 50 on his two previous attempts, so why make an excuse of he might’ve not traveled. It’s a clear sign of not reading the room, because it didn’t make sense.
“There was a thought, when there was 40 seconds left, to kick a FG and go for an onside kick. When it doesn’t work, you go back and look at it. If I had it back, absolutely, I would’ve kicked the field goal on fourth down in the fourth qtr. We didn’t get the first down.”
Then there’s the lesson on offense, which should go directly to Jim Chaney and his staff.
“Offensively, the name of the game is scoring points. You can do it a bunch of different ways. We’ve got to call an aggressive game, and when we do that, we’ve got to execute it.”
Well, if that’s the case, why aren’t you trying to catch the other team napping. See, there’s two ways of thinking here. Either you trust your guys to make plays or you try to get through it by playing it safe. The Vols played it safe on Saturday and it cost them again.
Jeremy Pruitt mentioned in his Monday press conference that they have to be more aggressive throwing the ball down field.
Why is Tennessee waiting until the month of November to make this declaration?
3rd Quarter Destruction
The Vols have been outscored 88-7 over the past four games in the third quarter. That’s an ugly stat and one of the main reasons the Vols sit where they do. Grasping for answers.
I’ve said it time and time gain. It is a tradition for Tennessee to give up the slant and Arkansas took advantage of the weekly problem. It felt like Kendal Briles was baiting the Vols defense. They ran the ball most of the first half, without testing the defense down the field. They set it up to perfection.
Feliepe Franks connected on two passes of 50+ yards in the second half. One of those was for a touchdown and the other set the Razorbacks up inside the six yard line.
The Arkansas offense racked up 170 passing yards in the third quarter, leading to three touchdowns. Let’s not forget the field goal as well. In a blink of an eye, the razorbacks went on a 24-0 run. The game was over.
It’s one thing to let it happen in one game, but the Vols have now lost four consecutive games. I have no idea what happens in the locker room at halftime, but the Vols are getting out-schemed in the 2nd half of these games.
The defense looks lost and the staff doesn’t know how to stop the bleeding, they’ve got four rounds left.