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It’s hard not to wonder if we’re witnessing the waning moments of Butch Jones’ Tennessee tenure.
Days after he lambasted the media for its negativity and later, while defending those comments, said the last two years were some of the best in recent Volunteer history, Jones’ team laid an egg against Georgia on Saturday.
The Bulldogs shut the Vols out 41-0, the first time Tennessee has been held scoreless at home since 1994.
Yeah, the Vols weren’t even shut out in the Derek Dooley era. Jones’ teams are accomplishing negative (oops sorry for using that word) things that Dooley’s teams never did.
Look, Tennessee’s 9-4 seasons in each of the past two years were good ones. But they were expected to be more than just good. With the talent Jones had brought into Knoxville, double-digit wins and SEC East titles were expected.
Those haven’t happened. Tennessee hasn’t won 10 games or the East since 2007, when Phillip Fulmer was the head coach.
After a 5-7 campaign in 2008, Fulmer was out the door.
With Josh Dobbs off to the NFL after using up his eligibility in 2016, Jones held off in naming either Quenten Dormady or Jarrett Guarantano his starting quarterback to begin the 2017 season. We know why now. The two QBs combined to go 11-23 for 80 yards and throw two picks against the Bulldogs.
Saturday’s game was a cascade of awfulness for Tennessee. Not only did the Vols play poorly, there were bumbling moments to go along with it.
Like the snap that ricocheted off center Jashon Robertson’s butt.
The interception that came after deflecting off a Tennessee player’s knee.
And the punt that was blocked by a Georgia player’s head because it was so low.
After fighting back against Georgia Tech in Week 1, there was enough optimism around the Tennessee program to think that 9-4 was in the cards again this season. And while that would be an unsatisfying record for some Volunteer fans, it would be an acceptable one given the talent the team lost in 2016.
The heartbreaking loss to Florida two weeks ago was explainable too, even if Tennessee could have and should have won the game in regulation with better execution. The game was in Gainesville and Florida hit a fluke play to win.
But last week’s strugglebus of a four-point win wasn’t. The Vols looked inept vs. one of the worst teams in college football. Resilient teams bounce back and destroy bad teams after heartbreaking losses.
This Tennessee team doesn’t look resilient. And that falls on Jones, who can’t explain away this defeat to Georgia. Those unhappy Tennessee fans are roaring now. And new athletic director John Currie undoubtedly hears them.
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