At least part of the truth has been told.
We knew after the previous two recruiting cycles that Tennessee football was going to get better. We knew after the recent Missouri game that Tennessee football had improved.
We didn’t know if the Volunteers were good enough to win main events. They probably aren’t but opportunities remain. We’ll see.
A few good things happened at Georgia. The Bulldogs gave away a touchdown. The Vol defense twice squeezed touchdown threats down to field goals. The defense denied some fourth-down power plays. The defense delivered a delightful goal-line stand at the end of the half.
There were more bad things. One of the better defenders, Deandre Johnson, was ejected for targeting. It shouldn’t have happened. The hit was after the whistle.
Turnovers turned a loss into a rout. Georgia flaunted physical superiority.
Tennessee lost big, a standard result when overmatched. Tennessee last defeated a top 10 opponent in 2006. If you are keeping score, that translates to 34 consecutive losses to national powers.
The late afternoon at Georgia might have been more exciting if the Vols hadn’t been flagged for 10 infractions and hadn’t made so many other mistakes.
Jeremy Pruitt asked himself a profound question: Was all that about what Georgia was doing or what Tennessee was not doing?
Georgia has a really good defense. Tennessee’s offense can’t be as inept as it looked. Productivity was essentially condensed into two excellent throws by Jarrett Guarantano and two spectacular catches by Josh Palmer.
Consider the first six possessions after intermission. Pass protection disappeared. Bulldogs really got after Guarantano. He fumbled twice when mugged and threw an interception that Pruitt called “a terrible decision.”
During all this, the Vols moved the football six yards – backwards. They punted three times without mishap.
Because the Vols couldn’t run the ball, they couldn’t sustain drives. That left the defense on the field too long. Georgia had possession for 36 minutes and 38 seconds. When players are tired, the gap in talent becomes more obvious.
The Vols were told they had a chance in Athens. They ended up where they have been for how many ever years, nowhere close, whipped 27-0 in the second half.
Some myths evaporated. Tennessee is not the No. 12 team in the country. The winning streak of last season was built on the favorable schedule. Well-coached teams are disciplined and fundamentally sound. There is a lot of unfinished business under the heading of attention to details.
It appears Georgia does not like us. Those chop-blockers were a serious threat to Tennessee knees.
Can you believe Bulldog wide receiver George Pickens’ disrespect for Guarantano? When Jarrett was chased out of bounds in front of the Georgia bench, George sauntered over and squirted him with his water bottle. Officials caught the second-grade recess behavior and spanked Pickens with a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Bratty prank or pure disdain? Your call.
The nice, little quarterback, Stetson Fleming Bennett IV, looks like a choir boy but is a killer at heart. Rumor has it he was found hiding in a physical education class or maybe it was in fraternity intramurals. The former walk-on has risen from obscurity, from the bottom of the depth chart, to Georgia stardom.
In the fading minutes of the fourth quarter, when he was supposed to be running out the clock, he threw into the end zone in an effort to run up the score.
Stetson’s grandfather would have loved that. Buddy Bennett was a fierce competitor as a South Carolina quarterback, as an outstanding secondary coach at East Tennessee State and as architect of Tennessee’s best-ever pass defense, 1970, SEC-record 36 interceptions, 10 by Bobby Majors, nine by Tim Priest.
Georgia turned the return of Cade Mays into nothing more than a footnote. The Bulldogs were polite after the game but did not vote for him or Trey Smith as SEC lineman of the week. Some might consider that rude. Both are famous.
Tennessee now faces a new and very different problem. It must do a Humpty-Dumpty reenactment, pick up the pieces, try to put them back together and climb back onto the wall. Kentucky, suddenly more confident, is coming to town.
The Vols are favored by a touchdown. The Wildcats have a mission statement: Get even for last year. This time, the UK quarterback can run and throw.
Kentucky lost its first two games but now has a one-game winning streak, 24-2 over Mississippi State. Can you imagine holding the Bulldogs, coached by the air-raid master, Mike Leach, to no offensive points? Kentucky intercepted six passes.
Pruitt promises intense preparation. He’ll correct as many mistakes as possible. He generally approved of team effort at Georgia but hinted of a change or two in personnel.
It was inevitable that this would be a strange season. So soon Tennessee faces a crucial game.
Marvin West welcomes reader remarks or questions. His address is email@example.com