This was the most undisciplined game Tennessee has played under Butch Jones
Entering Saturday’s contest, no team in the country fumbled more than the Vols. They lived up to their reputation, fumbling six times and losing five. A pair of Josh Dobbs interceptions rounded out the seven-turnover performance. Tennessee also committed a season-high 12 penalties for 84 yards. They came at costly times, such as Nigel Warrior’s targeting foul that negated a big punt return by Alvin Kamara. If the Vols hold any chance of beating the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide next week, they have to clean up their mistakes.
Tennessee must start faster to beat Alabama
It was reiterated time and time again heading into the game against Texas A&M that Tennessee had to avoid another slow start if they wanted to win. Yet, it happened again. Their inability to execute the game plan on both sides of the ball from the start ultimately led to the team’s demise against the Aggies. Had the Vols avoided another yet another double-digit deficit—paired with limiting their turnovers—they could’ve won comfortably on Saturday.
Team 120 is never out of a game
Through six games this season, Tennessee has trailed by at least 10 points five times. In its three SEC games, they’ve faced deficits of 21 to Florida, 17 to Georgia and 21 to Texas A&M. Yet, the Vols battle back each and every time, either tying or taking a lead in all games. Credit head coach Butch Jones for keeping the team level-headed when the game appears out of reach.
Alvin Kamara is one of the most dynamic players in the country
Before Saturday’s loss, Tennessee was 8-0 when Kamara scored a touchdown. With Jalen Hurd out with an undisclosed injury, it was evident Kamara’s role would increase. He responded with the best game of his collegiate career, accumulating 288 yards rushing and receiving with three touchdowns. His ability to stretch the field with his speed allows offensive coordinator Mike DeBord to open up the playbook. If Hurd isn’t 100 percent next week, the Vols should keep Kamara in the starting role.
It is often said the college football season is a war of attrition. Tennessee currently losing that war. The only starters on the Vols’ defense to not miss snaps due to injury are Derek Barnett, Corey Vereen and Todd Kelly Jr. With the uncertainty of a return time for Darrin Kirkland Jr. or Danny O’Brien, Tennessee is desperate for its bye week. This team has proved that when at full strength, they can compete with anyone in the country.
Despite the outcome, there’s no question that next weekend’s atmosphere in Neyland will be electric.
Edited by David Bradford
Featured image by Craig Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics