Tennessee hung with Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night, which isn’t really something anyone thought was possible. The Vols played inspired football, showing life defensively even before Tua Tagovailoa was hurt. Brian Maurer started the game for Tennessee, leading drive following an interception for Tua.
Maurer exited the game shortly after with another concussion, but the Tennessee offense was still able to do enough to stay alive. Jarrett Guarantano struggled, but Tim Jordan and the offensive line were working well together.
The defense shut down Mac Jones for the most part, keeping the game within reach for most of the night. In fact, Tennessee was looking to cut the lead to eight points with eight minutes left to play in the game. It brought up a 4th and goal from the inch line, when disaster struck.
Guarantano tried to sneak the ball in, going up and over the offensive line. He immediately fumbled, which Alabama picked up and ran back for six. After all that, the scoreboard read 35-13 — far from how competitive this game was.
So what in the world happened on that odd play? Jeremy Pruitt was less than pleased on the sidelines and could be seen getting in Guarantano’s face after the play. But Pruitt fell on the sword afterwards.
“We’re close down there on the goal line,” Pruitt said after the game. “So you’ve got an opportunity to run the sneak of give the ball there to Quavaris Crouch again. There was some miscommunication out there. And that’s our fault. It’s the coaches’ fault, ok, starting with me.”
There’s some thought that Guarantano went rogue with the sneak, which would make the miscommunication comment from Pruitt make sense. However, not a soul on the Tennessee side will admit that, as Pruitt and several other players refused to throw anyone under the bus.
“When we left the huddle, we had one call,” Tennessee center Brandon Kennedy said after the game. “But I’m not sure what happened between that.”
Whatever was supposed to happen clearly didn’t happen and the botched play ended up dooming Tennessee’s efforts. The only criticism Pruitt had for Guarantano was the way he carried out the sneak.
“It’s no reason to hurry up,” Pruitt continued. “The ball is this far from the in line. We ran two quarterback sneaks earlier in the game by pushing the pile and our guys, they dented the front a little bit right there. So talking about it there on the sideline, we could either go back with it and run the sneak and we elected to run a sneak. Shouldn’t have jumped over the top. Should’ve pushed it there in the middle.”
It was a black-eye on an otherwise encouraging performance for Tennessee. The Volunteers sit at 2-5, but now face a lighter schedule that includes South Carolina, Missouri, UAB, Kentucky and Vanderbilt to finish the year. With that, they’ve got a chance to put their progress on display in the win column.