The Tennessee Vols’ win against the South Carolina Gamecocks wasn’t pretty on Saturday, but it was a win.
Ultimately, that’s all that matters. And UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt seems to agree.
“We’re leaving Columbia with a W and that’s what we came here for,” said Pruitt after the Vols’ 31-27 win.
Despite the win, I’m sure it will be hard for some folks to look past the obvious mistakes that Tennessee made on Saturday night — specifically from quarterback Jarrett Guarantano.
But I think focusing on the mistakes would be unwise. Especially considering the circumstances.
The Vols are 1-0. They went on the road in the SEC and won their first game of the season after a bizarre offseason that presented new challenges that coaches have never faced before.
For example, Pruitt said on Saturday night that Tennessee wasn’t even able to practice special teams the first four days of practice because the specialists were in quarantine.
And when they returned, half the team was quarantined.
It’s not just special teams that missed significant practice time, either. It was nearly every position on the field.
“We had to piece it together,” said Pruitt on Saturday night.
Obviously, everyone in the nation is facing the same challenges. Things weren’t any easier for South Carolina.
But the Vols’ coaching staff did a better job on Saturday than South Carolina’s coaching staff.
Tennessee wasn’t perfect. Far from it, actually. Gamecocks wide receiver Shi Smith (10 receptions for 140 yards) was nearly impossible for UT to contain.
The Vols, however, stayed the course. Even with key players like defensive back Shawn Shamburger and Darel Middleton out, they were still able to leave the Palmetto State with a win.
It’s a game that Tennessee should’ve won. So I understand if folks aren’t over the moon about celebrating this win like it’s a win against Florida or Georgia.
But not everyone on Saturday can say they earned a victory in a game they should’ve won.
LSU, the defending national champions, lost in Baton Rouge to Mississippi State. The Tigers were clearly the more talented team (despite their massive loss of production from their 2019 team). But the Bulldogs were more prepared. That’s why they returned to Starkville with a 1-0 record.
Road wins in the SEC aren’t easy to come by — especially in a season-opener. And in the past, this is the type of game we’ve seen Tennessee lose on numerous occasions (remember the start to the 2019 season).
The Vols have a lot of room to improve. But I’m extremely confident that Pruitt and his staff will make those improvements. I think we’ll see a much sharper team against Missouri next Saturday.
Wins don’t always have to be pretty to be impressive.
And I was impressed by the Tennessee team that field against South Carolina, despite the rough moments.
Featured image via Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports/Tennessee Athletic Communications