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Fast starts becoming a theme for Tennessee under Josh Heupel

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Tennessee Knoxville News Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight week, Tennessee dropped 28 points on their opponent in the first quarter. This offense has quickly morphed into what everyone hoped it would become, scoring four touchdowns in the opening quarter of play against back to back SEC opponents.

Heupel’s Volunteers are the first team to accomplish this feat twice in a season since Heupel’s 2019 UCF team. They’re the first team to do it in back to back weeks since 2016 Louisville.

Sure they haven’t proven it against Alabama or Georgia, but it’s a rock solid foundation to build off of in the middle of year one. Hendon Hooker has come in and totally transformed the offense, even while Tennessee sorts through all kinds of injury situations. Frankly, it hasn’t mattered who has been on the field — Tennessee is scoring in bunches in the first quarter no matter what.

“Great preparation, great focus,” Heupel said of his team’s success early in games. “Understanding what you’re going to see from the other side of the football. See something different, being able to adjust. Had to do that a week ago. And then execute. Those were great things we saw early in the first half of the football game. Second half, not far off. Not all 11. Just being a little bit off. Have to be better there and play a complete 60 minutes.”

Tennessee jumped out to a 14-0 lead against Bowling Green. They should have been up 28-0 against Pittsburgh. They scored 14 quick points against Florida, and then demolished both Missouri and South Carolina.

The trick has been putting together a 60 minute game, which you can certainly argue they did not do against South Carolina. Tennessee’s offense ran dry in the third quarter, allowing South Carolina to still have a glimmer of hope. We’ve seen this before, thinking back to the Bowling Green and Florida games.

Whether it be in-game adjustments or a lack of focus, Josh Heupel has plenty of ammunition to keep preaching about playing a complete game.

“Certainly on Monday there will be a lot of things that we can catch our guys’ attention with,” Heupel said. “Walking in the building, if we don’t have their attention, we should have it by the time we sit down and watch the first few minutes of video with us. It’s coaches and players together on everything that we’re doing. There are ways that we have to be better as a staff.”

Tennessee will stay at home next week, welcoming Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss to town for what could be a wild one.