The Tennessee Vols didn’t leave Tuscaloosa with a win on Saturday night, but they should head back to Knoxville knowing they at least belong on the same field as the Alabama Crimson Tide.

UT dropped to 2-5 after a 35-13 loss, but the final score is not indicative of what happened on Saturday.

If not for some horrendous officiating, Tennessee might have left town with a win (or at least had a chance to win).

One particular unnecessary roughness call on third down against Vols linebacker Darrell Taylor extended a drive for Alabama which led to a touchdown.

Another bad holding call erased a touchdown for Tennessee and they had to settle for a field goal.

Tennessee belongs

There’s no doubt Alabama has more talent than UT. They’re bigger, faster and stronger.

But the Vols were able to move the ball against Alabama’s defensive front. Tim Jordan rushed for 94 yards on 17 carries. Tennessee was 7-of-15 on third down. They looked like they belonged.

And that’s all because of the job Jeremy Pruitt is doing at Tennessee. The offensive line has played much better this season (better than any season in recent memory). The defensive line, despite playing with limited talent, has improved as the season has progressed.

I think it’s clear that UT is making progress under Pruitt. And I think it’s clear, based on the passion we saw on Saturday night, that Pruitt is 100 percent invested in turning Tennessee into an elite program.

The Vols still have a long ways to go. But they should be proud of the effort they showed against Alabama. It was a fight all game long for the Crimson Tide.

You can’t ask for much more if you’re a UT fan.

Featured image via Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

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