Tennessee fans are probably finding it hard to stay positive after witnessing another meltdown on Saturday night, this one to division rival Florida. That’s understandable given the 47-21 loss. However, the situation on Rocky Top isn’t as dire as some may believe. This football team has problems. That’s undeniable. Nevertheless, there were definitely some positives on display in the Vols’ loss to Florida. Here are a few of them:
1. The offense showed promise
Disclaimer: Tennessee’s offense looked good when it wasn’t turning the ball over.
A quick glance at the statistics shows that Florida only outgained the Vols by 23 yards in total offense. Yes, that’s right. It’s not a misprint. Florida had 387 yards of total offense to the Vols’ 364. So, how does a team lose by 26 points when it nearly matched its opponent in total offensive yardage?
Turnovers. Six turnovers to be exact. Tennessee’s offense proved it could move the ball against Florida’s defense, but it couldn’t get out of its own way.
The Vols’ offense also had eight third-down conversions and dominated the time of possession battle. Four fumbles and two interceptions are sure signs that the offense was doing something wrong. However, the other numbers cited above show that the offense was doing some good things as well.
Lastly, the offense showed big play ability. A few examples were Madre London’s long run on Tennessee’s first touchdown drive and Austin Pope’s 55-yard fourth-down catch that resulted in a fumble and touchback. Tennessee’s offense has the potential to be good if it can take care of the football. But, that’s also a big “if.”
2. The defense actually played a solid game
Tennessee’s defense had a solid game.
But how can that be when it gave up 47 points? These questions are easily answered. The Vols’ offense kept turning the ball over, giving Florida’s offense short fields.
For example, Florida’s first two scoring drives came off turnovers inside Tennessee’s 20-yard line. When a team gives up turnovers inside its own 20, the defense is going to give up points. That’s practically agiven.
It was a different story when Florida’s offense was forced to drive the field, though. Tennessee’s defense forced seven punts and only gave up three third down conversions. Those are impressive numbers that prove some amount of success.
The Vols’ defense did give up a few big plays, but it stifled Florida’s offense for the most part. This defense has the potential to be good as well, but the offense has to do its part and take care of the ball.
3. The Vols never gave up
In his opening statement at the postgame press conference, Jeremy Pruitt said some of his players competed hard.
“I found out a lot about guys on our team tonight,’ Pruitt said. “I saw guys that kind of had a look in their eye. They were competing, they were doing their best. That’s a good thing. I think that’s something we can build on.”
Less than twenty seconds into the second half, Jordan Scarlett scored on a 19-yard run to give Florida a 33-3 lead. Tennessee had already suffered through a disastrous first half before finding itself facing a 30-point deficit less than one minute into the second one.
The Vols could have easily given up at that moment, but they didn’t. Instead, Tennessee made something of a rally, scoring 18 of its 21 points in the second half. The first touchdown drive came late in the third quarter when the Vols’ offense seemed to impose its will on the Florida defense. The drive ended when Madre London plunged into the end zone.
The Vols put together another scoring drive in the fourth quarter when Tennessee drove 76 yards, and Jeremy Banks found the end zone on a 2-yard run.
It would have been easy for Tennessee’s players to lose heart when they were facing a 30-point deficit early in the third quarter, but they didn’t. That’s a positive sign from a team that is likely to face more adversity in the coming weeks. It takes mental toughness to keep fighting when nothing is going your way. It’s impossible to accurately judge a team based on one game, but it’s starting to look like Tennessee has enough mental toughness to keep fighting in the face of adversity.
Tennessee will need to be able to handle adversity next week, as it travels to No. 2 Georgia. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. from Sanford Stadium in Athens, GA.
Featured image by Dusty Bryan.