[title_box title=”Second straight SEC loss leaves Tennessee looking for answers”]
It was a sight all too familiar for Vol fans. Tennessee goes up by double digits and then falters late. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday night in Neyland Stadium as Arkansas came back to beat the Vols, 24-20.
Tennessee seems to play their best football in the beginning stages of the game. The first time the Vols touched the ball last night, Evan Berry returned it 96 yards for a touchdown. Also, their first play from scrimmage was a 35-yard rush by Jalen Hurd. But of course, the early success would come to an end, the ground game in particular. Hurd had 94 yards rushing in the first half, but only managed seven yards in the second half.
The Vols dominated in the first quarter and managed to control a 14-point lead. They had 168 total yards and looked ready to rebound after a tough loss last week in Florida.
Coach Butch Jones made it a point in the first half to pass the ball and spread it around to his receivers. He succeeded, as Joshua Dobbs went 14-for-22 for 146 yards and completed a pass to seven different receivers in the first two quarters.
While the offense looked decent in the first half, the defense struggled. The secondary in particular looked terrible. The defensive backs failed to keep up with their assignments in man coverage and performed miserably when put in positions to make tackles in the open field. Because of this, Tennessee found themselves tied at halftime, 17-17.
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen had 124 yards and a touchdown in the first half and Alex Collins was an absolute beast in the run game. He had 56 yards on 10 carries including a touchdown in the first half.
Arkansas came out of the locker room focused and ready to get their first win in almost a month. Allen led the Razorbacks on a 10-play, 85-yard drive that ended with a Collins rushing touchdown. Tennessee answered with a 45-yard field goal, which would end up being the last points scored by the Vols.
Tennessee was able to obtain momentum at several points in the second half, but couldn’t capitalize. Freshman Shy Tuttle blocked a field goal in the third quarter, giving Tennessee possession, but the offense couldn’t get anything going and was forced to punt. Later, Arkansas tried a fake field goal, but was unable to pick up a first down. Tennessee got the ball on their own seven-yard line down four points when it could have easily been 10 points. Tennessee’s offense again failed to get a first down and had to punt. The offense that showed life in the first quarter once again inexplicably went missing.
Tennessee was given one more chance to win the game. With a little over five minutes remaining, Dobbs was given the ball at Tennessee’s own 14-yard line. He was able to connect with receiver Josh Smith for a 20-yard gain on third-and-13 to put the Vols near the 50 with 3:30 left in the game. A minute later, the Vols were faced with a fourth-and-13. Dobbs tried to connect with Josh Malone down the sideline, but the ball was slightly overthrown.
From there, Arkansas was able to run out the clock, thanks to their ground game.
Collins continued to be good with the ball, as he finished rushing for 164 yards on 27 touches, including two touchdowns. Rawleigh Williams III also rushed for 100 yards on 14 touches.
Allen completed 11 passes on 24 attempts for 219 yards and a touchdown. Drew Morgan led the Razorbacks in receiving yards with 110 on five receptions.
Dobbs finished going 20-of-36 for 232 yards and Hurd was Tennessee’s leading rusher, running 19 times for 101 yards.
In every game Tennessee has played this season, they have had at least a 13-point lead, yet they are 2-3. Simply put, they can’t finish games. The Vols have had three chances to learn, yet failed.
“We couldn’t make big plays at big times during the game,” said Jones. “We all hurt. It’s tough on all of us. There is no magic potion, we just have to get back to work and get better.”
Tennessee will welcome Georgia to Neyland Stadium next week. Kickoff is set for 3:30 ET.
Featured image by Ben Ozburn
Edited by Cody McClure