Upon Further Review: 'That bad, huh?'

Jesse Simonton, Senior Writer
Vol Quest

"How are we doing?"

"Same as always."

"That bad, huh?"

Woof.

It wasn't the same Saturday. It was actually worse. Much, much worse.

Tennessee fans are frustrated, but Saturday, Sept. 30, may be the day Butch Jones’ bricks officially started crumbling.

There’s been other blunders before. Sure. But nothing has come close to the tornado that transpired Saturday in Knoxville.

As the bossman Brent Hubbs noted in his postgame column, it was a bad, bad day for Tennessee football — and not just on the field.

Less than a week removed from his viral “fake news” harangue, Butch Jones was skewered for more than two minutes by ESPN’s College GameDay crew and then an hour later, Jones was live on UT’s campus going back and forth with Paul Finebaum.

By sunset, Tennessee had suffered its worst loss ever inside Neyland Stadium.

Saturday’s 41-0 blanking by Georgia certainly doesn’t erase all the brick building Jones has done at Tennessee. The program is irrevocably better now than it was five years ago, but the loss definitely pushes UT's fifth-year coach closer to brink.

Since Jauan Jennings’ incredible Hail Mary touchdown against UGA last year, the Vols are 2-6 in the their last eight SEC games. They’ve been blown out at home by rivals Alabama and Georgia, lost another heartbreaker in The Swamp and fell at Vandy, squandering a chance for a Sugar Bowl berth. With their latest defeat, they won’t get to Atlanta for the 10th straight year.

That’s not schadenfreude. Those are just the facts.

After the game yesterday, Jones, who too often finds himself in hot water for his comments, said all the right things.

He owned the defeat. He called Tennessee’s performance “inexcusable” and he shouldered the blame for the team’s offensive struggles.

But accountability is only a single noun in D.A.T. WAY.

What about the details? Where was the toughness Saturday?

The arrows are flying, and as coaches love to say, Tennessee will “circle the wagons” during the bye week. Whether those wagons are full of answers remains to be seen.

The Knoxville natives are restless, but Jones will have every opportunity to right the ship. This is still his football team and there’s plenty of potential wins remaining on the schedule.

Where Tennessee's program goes from here will depend solely on what details gets corrected in October.

THE STARTING 11

A skinny dozen of quick-hitters and final thoughts…

1. Tennessee’s offense is a tire-fire, and right now, the coaching staff currently has no answers to stop the burning. There’s no next level analysis needed here. Georgia’s defense is really good — Brett Kendrick compared it to Alabama’s postgame — but that doesn’t excuse the amount of ineptitude across the board for Tennessee. The playcalling remains stale. The quarterback position is in flux, the offensive line has no continuity and the receivers are not helping matters at all.

2. Saturday’s overall offensive numbers were ghastly. IT was less grim. A week after averaging just 1.7 yards per play in the second half against UMass, the Vols were 1-of-12 on 3rd down against UGA. They never reached the red zone. Without penalties, they gained five first downs and had four turnovers.

In the third quarter, Quinten Dormady had as many completions (3) as Jake Fromm had touchdowns.

Tennessee had one play all game over 10 yards … and it resulted in a fumble following John Kelly’s 44-yard catch-and-run. The Vols have now gone six quarters without a touchdown. They ran 52 plays on Saturday — 25 resulting in zero, negative yardage or a turnover.

3. Tennessee’s bad offense in a nutshell: In the third quarter, the Vols were called for two different holding penalties on a run play where John Kelly gained one yard.

4. While Dormady got very little help on Saturday, Tennessee has to make a move at quarterback. For the last two games, Jones has inserted Jarrett Guarantano into the game just for the sake of change, but with the bye week now, Tennessee needs to get the redshirt freshman prepared to play serious snaps.

He’s not ready, clearly, and I as said on Twitter yesterday, it’s unfair to the kid that he’s Jones’ best hope right now, but it’s true. Jones said postgame that things have to “go perfect” for Tennessee’s offense to function.

When it does, it looks like this.

Or this.

Yes, Kelly fumbled on the second clip, but on both those plays, Dormady had a clean pocket and stepped into a throw. The pass to Jeff George might’ve been his best toss of the season.

But as has been the case all year, those throws are few and far between.

Too often, Dormady’s mechanics go haywire and he gets happy feet under pressure.

As Gary Danielson said on the broadcast, the interception to start the game was “just a poor, late throw.” Dormady also missed a pair of double-moves, under-throwing both Josh Palmer and Marquez Callaway.

5. Still, the team’s offensive issues do not fall solely on Dormady’s shoulders. The offensive line troubles continue and the receivers have routinely failed to help out their quarterback. Palmer has had a really tough go of it of late, but these are the types of catches Tennessee's struggling offense needs its wideouts to make.

Of course, asking Josh Smith to run a deep post and out-jump a corner seems like a bizarre personnel decision.

Also, hopefully Marquez Callaway is ok after banging his head on the ground hard. It was scary watching him need serious help to get to the sidelines. Callaway was targeted a few times Saturday but failed to record a catch for the second straight game.

6. Tennessee got blown out Saturday, but the Vols certainly missed a few opportunities to make it a competitive game early. In the first quarter, Quart’e Sapp and Micah Abernathy both got hands on the football but failed to record a pick. UGA converted a 3rd-and-long on the next play with a 25-yard pass to Terry Godwin.

After Georgia shanked a punt late in the first quarter, Tennessee took over at its own 47-yard line down 10-0. The Vols proceed to gain seven yards on three plays.

The Bulldogs would give the football right back to the Vols with an interception, only to have Jashon Robertson return the favor with a misfired a snap, soiling Tennessee’s best scoring opportunity all game.

7. Nick Chubb got going in the second quarter, but Tennessee’s defense was dialed into UGA’s gameplan early. Fromm was rattled by the Neyland crowd and Bob Shoop’s unit was playing fast and aggressive. I liked the move of Kyle Phillips playing as a DT in most early 3rd down situations.

Before Chubb ripped off runs of 14 and 23 yards, Georgia had just seven rushing yards on 10 attempts. By 10:52 in the second quarter, Tennessee had two sacks, three tackles for loss, two key pass breakups on third down and an interception. Then it all fell apart.

8. Georgia adjusted to more spread run concepts in the second quarter, but the tempo is what really put Tennessee’s defense on its heels. The Vols’ front-seven got tired, and defensive lineman started getting pushed around. Georgia converted three first downs on 3rd-and-7+ with runs to go up 17-0, as Tennessee's linebackers got stretched wide and took bad angles on the ball. The Vols allowed 174 rushing yards in the second half.

9. Standouts were few and far between Saturday, but Justin Martin had perhaps his best game to date in the blowout. The senior wasn’t great shedding blocks in the run game (none of Tennessee's DBs were), but he had a key pass breakup on a 3rd down, came up with a diving interception and nearly downed a punt inside the 1-yard line.

10. Speaking of punting, things were so bad Saturday that even All-American candidate Trevor Daniel caught the yips. Daniel out-kicked his coverage twice, leading Tennessee to (inexplicably?) ask its punter to change his style to a rugby approach. Daniel uncorked one nice sidewinder for 56 yards, but he also had one blocked by a UGA defender’s facemask. Just bad.

11. Questions are abound for this team. How will Tennessee regroup? What is the mentality in the locker room right now? Thankfully, it's the bye week. I think everybody around here needs it.

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