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An emotional Jeremy Pruitt thinks Tennessee is headed in the right direction after losing to Georgia

Encouraging comments.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The final score might not show it, but Tennessee showed some signs of life on Saturday afternoon against Georgia. Down 17-0 at halftime, the Vols battled back to make it a 24-12 game in the fourth quarter.

For a stretch of the second half, Tennessee competed with the second ranked Bulldogs. That’s a positive takeaway for a program that needed one.

“I’ll say this about our football team — I said it last week. There were a lot of guys that played their best game last week for us,” Pruitt said. “It was hard to tell that because we turned the football over, but I said that I thought I saw the right look in some of the guys’ eyes. I wasn’t wrong. Those same guys came out this week and practiced hard and they didn’t let up.”

Tennessee’s 12 point deficit was quickly widened by Georgia, which manufactured a seven-plus minute drive to break Tennessee’s back. But Pruitt was impressed with how his team got off the mat down 24 points on the road.

“Georgia did what good football teams do and they put a drive together,” Pruitt said. “But I’ll tell you this, on both side of the field today, they knew they were in a football game. I think we made the right step in the right direction as far as building our program.

To me there’s no moral victories, I’m not going to stand up here and be proud we lost. But I said all along that I was worried about how we played, how we approached the game. If we will starting doing the way we did this week every single week, the other stuff will take care of itself.”

Pruitt said earlier in the week that you learn a lot about yourself when you go on the road in the SEC. When asked what he learned today, Pruitt actually got emotional at the podium.

“We got fight in us. We’re not going to quit. It kinda gets me excited.” Pruitt then paused and gathered himself.

“You know, this team has had a lot of negatives go towards them for a long time. I’m proud of them for the way they fought. It ain’t easy. That team in red today, they tried to change the way we think. They play the right way. Our guys kept fighting, which means we’re headed in the right direction.”

That’s a refreshing moment from Pruitt, who is in the middle of the toughest stretch of the season. If only for a handful of minutes today, Tennessee was in the game. That’s a step forward. Even though this program is miles away, the fight and effort they showed in the second half is something to build on as the season marches on.