On Saturday night I watched the Tennessee/Florida game while attending to the wants of six third graders. My daughter Emily had a sleepover party to celebrate her ninth birthday. Every time the girls needed some water or a doughnut, they came downstairs.
“Is Tennessee winning,” they would ask.
“No,” I would reply.
“Of course,” one of them said.
This is what a generation of kids is growing with in Knoxville. Tennessee has had so much futility over the past decade that losses are not feared, but expected.
The blowout loss to Florida doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be optimism for the Jeremy Pruitt era, but that any delusions of a bowl game trip should be wiped away right now. This Tennessee team isn’t going 6-6. It could go 3-9. That is a real possibility.
The Vols lost 47-21, and it wasn’t that close. Here are my five takeaways.
1) Losing the turnover battle
Through the first three games of the season, the Vols only had one turnover. For a team limited in terms of what it can currently accomplish on offense, taking care of the football is crucial.
Against Florida the Vols had six turnovers. They happened in a variety of ways. Interceptions, a special teams fumble… the worst occurred when Austin Pope fumbled inside the two-yard-line. It should have been a touchdown to bring the Vols within a couple of scores. Instead, it was a touchback.
Tennessee simply isn’t talented enough to give opponents short fields. That happened time and time again versus the Gators.
2) Guarantano needs protection
On the Vols first drive, Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was blasted from behind by Florida’s Jachai Polite. Vols running back Tim Jordan missed the assignment and Guarantano was nearly broken in two.
Throughout the evening he was sacked, knocked down and constantly harassed. Guarantano was lost for the game when his left knee was hit by Florida’s Cece Jefferson well after the ball was released. It was a dirty hit that ended Guarantano’s night in the third quarter.
It is what is, but the offensive line isn’t getting any better.
If things continue down this path, true freshman J.T. Shrout better be ready to go, because Guarantano and Keller Chryst won’t stay upright.
3) Calling it a night
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