Well… that wasn’t an ideal start for the Vols.
On paper, Tennessee’s matchup with 17th ranked West Virginia wasn’t a good one. It wasn’t much better on the field either.
In the second half, the Mountaineers poured it on and made the ride home from Charlotte a long one for UT fans.
Here are my five takeaways from the Vols 40-14 loss to West Virginia. And folks, I’m going to try being positive here because don’t we all need more positivity in our lives?
Tim Jordan’s emergence
A lot was made in the off-season about how head coach Jeremy Pruitt and offensive coordinator Tyson Helton preferred a bigger running back. When Ty Chandler went out early in the game due to injury, they turned to Tim Jordan.
All the sophomore from Bartow, FL did was rush for 118 yards on 20 carries, plus a touchdown. Jordan broke a ton of tackles against the Mountaineers and made his case for being “the guy” in the ground game.
Depending on Chandler’s availability, Jordan opportunities could really grow going forward.
Jarrett Guarantano the leader
The quarterback controversy dominated the headlines over the past few months. Would it be redshirt sophomore Jarrett Guarantano or grad transfer Keller Chryst getting the start in the season opener?
Guarantano was the pick, and the first snap of the game looked like so many snaps in 2017, with Guarantano getting blasted by an opposing lineman.
But Guarantano once again proved that he could take a hit, and that punishment didn’t have much impact on his time in the pocket. Guarantano completed 76 percent of his passes for 172 yards and a score. When he had time to throw, that meant positive plays for the Tennessee offense.
At the end of the game, despite a 26-point loss, he could be seen being positive with his teammates on the sidelines, a far cry from the 2017 season opener when camera caught him sulking when he didn’t get in the game.
Fourth and goal exorcism
In 2015, Tennessee kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard-line in the first quarter of the Oklahoma game. In 2017, their goal line inefficiency cost them a win at Florida. Way too often in the Butch Jones era, the Vols looked passive near the end zone.
In the second quarter against the Mountaineers, the Vols had first-and-goal from the one… which turned into fourth and goal from the one-and-a-half. Instead of a field goal, Pruitt went for it.
Guarantano’s play-action fake led to a touchdown catch from Dominick Wood-Anderson.
Butch Jones was fired last November, but some of the ghosts were dispatched after that sequence. At the time, it brought the Vols within three points. Yes, they eventually were blown out, but it’s a sign that Pruitt won’t play scared.
That might pay off in the future.
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