The talent gap between the Tennessee Vols and the Georgia Bulldogs is as wide as the Atlantic ocean.
But for nearly a half of football on Saturday night, Tennessee and Georgia looked like two heavyweights trading blows.
In the end, however, the Bulldogs’ size and depth was too much for Tennessee, as Georgia walked out of Neyland Stadium with a 43-14 win.
No one ever expected the Volunteers to beat Georgia on Saturday. Even the most diehard Tennessee fans knew that knocking off UGA, a legitimate National Championship contender, would be nearly impossible for UT.
But while the final score looked lopsided, anyone who watched the game knows that Tennessee competed with Georgia into the second half.
UT looked like a much different team against the Bulldogs than they did this season in their previous three losses.
The biggest reason for the improvement?
It’s pretty simple — true freshman quarterback Brian Maurer provided a much needed spark for the Vols.
With Maurer under center, the Vols’ offense finally looked like it belonged in the SEC.
Tennessee didn’t stay in the game because of a gimmicky offense. Unlike the Butch Jones era, the Vols’ went toe-to-toe with Georgia using a vertical offense that utilized Tennessee’s stellar wide receivers.
Marquez Callaway finished the game with 3 receptions for 105 yards, highlighted by a 73 yard touchdown pass from Maurer in the first quarter.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 5, 2019
Jauan Jennings also had a big day, catching 7 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.
The right path moving forward
Tennessee has a long way to go before they’re going to be able to put a complete game together against a team like Georgia.
But I think on Saturday night we saw a UT team that, if the talent was equal, could hang with one of the top teams in the nation.
That should be encouraging for Vol fans. Georgia’s game plan wasn’t any better than Tennessee’s. Their play calling wasn’t any better, either. Georgia was simply too big and too fast for the Vols.
By the way, something else I noticed from Georgia on Saturday was their respect for Tennessee’s defense. Kirby Smart elected to punt in several situations where I felt they could’ve easily went for it and got the first down. Smart, however, didn’t want to gamble against Pruitt’s defense. He punted and let his defense go to work against UT’s offense.
The Vols are extremely young. They’re inexperienced. They make a lot of mistakes.
But they have potential. This team, along with their head coach, are learning a lot this year. Eventually, when the roster has some depth and more talent, it’ll all come together for Tennessee.
I had some doubts about Pruitt early in the year. I still have some of those same doubts (I’ll never understand how they lost to Georgia State).
But after watching Tennessee hang with Georgia for a half of football on Saturday night, I feel like Pruitt can still accomplish what Phillip Fulmer hired him to do — make UT football relevant again.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports