Tennessee is faced with the impossible task of putting perhaps the worst lost in program history behind them this week. It was a 38-30 loss to the Georgia State Panthers — a game that wasn’t really even that close late — that has sent this season into a tailspin just one week in.
The road gets a little more difficult this week with the BYU Cougars coming to town. BYU, who sits at 0-1 also after taking a loss to Utah, will be bigger and stronger than Georgia State was last week.
“They had a game last week where they turned the ball over in a rivalry game,” Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt said of BYU. “It was back-and-forth there.”
BYU was in striking distance of No. 14 Utah entering the 4th quarter, but the Utes eventually put the Cougars away in Provo to win 30-12.
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson tossed two interceptions against Utah, but will pose a similar threat to what Dan Ellington of Georgia State did. Wilson got off to a bumpy start in 2019, but put together a really nice end to 2018. He ended up throwing for over 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns in a half season of action, while running for over 200 more yards.
“On their offensive side, to me it really starts with the quarterback, a guy that kind of reminds me of Johnny Manziel,” Pruitt said. “He can run around and extend plans, make all the throws. Turned the ball over a couple of times last week, unfortunately. He is a guy that we have to find a way to get on the ground.”
Getting a quarterback to the ground is something Tennessee struggled to do last week. The Volunteers gave up several key third down conversions to Georgia State — plenty off of a quarterback scramble. Ellington ended up running for 61 yards on the day, powering Georgia State’s upset. Keeping Wilson in the pocket may be the key to a win or loss come Saturday.
“Got a really good tight end,” Pruitt continued. “They are big up front, got good skill players. We will have a tremendous challenge.”
Matt Bushman, the tight end Pruitt was referencing, will be a problem for anyone who plays BYU this year. The 6-5, 245 pound tight end caught six passes for 62 yards against Utah, coming off of back to back 500 yard seasons in 2017 and 2018.
Tennessee is favored by about a field goal in this one as things currently sit. Vegas is banking on a bounce back from the Vols, who looked totally lost defensively in the opener. With a handful of key players out on that side of the ball, this defensive staff has to get the young players up to speed in a hurry.
Kickoff from Neyland Stadium for this one is set for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.