Which means it’s time to turn me sideways and see what orange-and-white-hued tidbits come dropping out of my ear. Now that I’ve had a day and a half to chew on the Tennessee Volunteers’ uninspired, no good 29-16 stinker in Gainesville.
Let’s get into it...
1) Go ahead and take the beautiful 2022 season and tuck it away in your mind. Put it in a special place that makes you happy. Remember it fondly. Because, lord have mercy, this is not the 2022 team, especially on offense. Sure, some of you (probably many) will undoubtedly hop in the comments and say, “duh, I knew that, dummy.” But I’d be willing to be dollars-to-donuts many of those same folks secretly thought that Tennessee would move the ball up and down the field on Florida and at least find a way to get out of town with the win.
Nope. Now, Vol fans are faced with the realization that Tennessee’s offensive linemen, wide receivers, and quarterback just aren’t close to what they were last year. And that’s not surprising. Jalin Hyatt was among-the-best-ever-in-Tennessee-history-level good. Cedric Tillman was elite as well. Darnell Wright was an absolute dawg. And Hendon Hooker can make so many more throws than Joe Milton can. His ability to run the RPO is also clearly better. Or just even run, period.
In other words, Tennessee’s offense was exposed on Saturday night for what it is: not even close to 2022. And so the expectations need to shift to match that reality.
2) It’s not just the offense. The defense was probably the biggest reason why Tennessee lost on Saturday. Tackling was abysmal, and players were out of position to make stops. Tennessee’s secondary couldn’t make a play with they needed it, which was the exact same story for the Vols’ third down defense for the day. A nightmare in Gainesville for a side of the ball that many - at least through two games - believed was better this year.
3) And the penalties. 10 for 79 felt like 20 for 200, honestly. I was shocked at the end that the penalties were what they were because they seemed like more. This team looked unfocused and not up for the moment they were in.
4) I mentioned Milton isn’t Hooker, and I think that’s pretty obvious. However, Milton wasn’t why Tennessee lost on Saturday night. He wasn’t decisive often enough and his hesitance to run is maddening at times. However, he did hit some big throws, and if not for two or three truly crooked officiating decisions in the second half, Tennessee would have been in the mid-20s and probably higher on the scoreboard and potentially in the game.
It’s not quite time to make the switch to Nico Iamaleava. However, I reserve the right to change my mind on that subject.
5) Here comes UT-San Antonio. Don’t sleep on the Roadrunners. Yeah. Yeah. They’re 1-2 this year with a loss to Army. However, would it be wise to downplay them in their biggest game of the year against a Tennessee team that just had their hearts ripped out and handed to them? I think not. Tennessee needs to shake this off quickly and come ready to play on Saturday.