Butch Jones, Tennessee searching for answers after embarrassing loss to Georgia

Tennessee Butch Jones Georgia loss
Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY Sports

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – In an embarrassing performance, Tennessee suffered its worst home loss in the modern era Saturday against rival Georgia – and that’s not fake news.

After a sluggish start by both offenses, Georgia dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and made Tennessee’s attack look like a junior college outfit in scoring an impressive 41-0 victory at Neyland Stadium.

Tennessee hadn’t lost a game at home like this since Vanderbilt beat the Vols 45-0 – in 1905.

An angry Tennessee crowd emptied the stands in the fourth quarter. By game’s end, the 15,000 or so Bulldogs fans that infiltrated Knoxville came close to outnumbering the remaining Vols fans.

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On a day when Peyton Manning was honored for being selected for induction into the College Hall of Fame, Tennessee’s offense was embarrassed. The Vols managed a mere 142 total yards, including just 62 rushing. UT was 1-of-12 on third down. The passing attack was horrific, as starter Quinten Dormady was 5-of-16 for 64 yards (44 came on one play) and two interceptions.

“That’s as bad of an offensive performance as I’ve ever been a part of,” said Tennessee coach Butch Jones. “It’s inexcusable.”

The shutout was the first for the Vols since a 31-0 home loss to Florida in 1994 when, ironically, Manning, then a true freshmen, made a cameo appearance in the fourth quarter.

Georgia is good, really good, especially on defense. Alabama might have a better defense. Auburn might have a better defense. But these Bulldogs might be among the nation’s best. Georgia is big, strong and fast, and tackle brilliantly. The Bulldogs simply don’t give an inch.

The only time Tennessee threatened was in the first half after an interception set up shop on Georgia’s 27. Two plays later, Tennessee fumbled right back to Georgia. And that was that.

It seemed fitting that on Tennessee’s biggest play of the game – a 44-yard pass to John Kelly – Kelly fumbled and Georgia recovered.

Tennessee was so inept, punter Trevor Daniel had a rugby-style punt blocked by the face mask of a Georgia rusher who didn’t even jump. Why in the world is Daniel, one of the nation’s best, trying a rugby-style punt?

Tennessee had four turnovers to Georgia’s one. But even without a turnover, UT wouldn’t have won this game.

“Right now, we’re being tested,” Jones said. “Our character is being tested.”

Asked if he told his team again that the performance was unacceptable, which he did after the 17-13 win over UMass, Jones said, “They understand that. They don’t need to be told that again.”

Jones said after the game that every starting job is open during the bye week.

“It’s gut-check time,” Jones said.

This might sound strange, but Tennessee’s defense wasn’t all that bad. The Vols held Georgia to 7 rushing yards in the first quarter and showed some fight.

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But the defense wore down while the offense continued to its ineptness. On its 14 possessions, Tennessee had nine punts, two interceptions, two fumbles and a failed fourth-down conversion.

The first-down production again was anemic: 11 first-down plays for 38 yards in the first half and 11 of the 19 first-down snaps in the game went for 2 or fewer yards.

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