Nashville, TN — It was an absolute wonderful day leading up to the game. I journeyed up to the great city of Nashville, TN and got to tailgate with some of my absolute best friends. Our spot was perfect, a block from the stadium and right on the main strip of tailgaters. The spread was a combo of Thanksgiving leftovers and all the usual tailgate treats: hot dogs, brats, chips & dips, and all the adult beverages you could ask for. Corn hole games and football throwing going on all around us. And I got my first ride with Bird Scooters. (If you go to Nashville or most big cities, download the app and ride bird scooters. You won’t regret it.) Then the game happened…
38 to 13, that’s the final of the third straight loss to Vanderbilt. Where to begin with this game? Do we talk about how this 2018 team came out with the effort of 2017 team? Do we talk about how we make Vanderbilt Stadium turn into Neyland West and still not gain any energy off that? OR do we talk about how we, once again, make Kyle Shurmur look like a Heisman trophy candidate?
I’m not going to add the drive by drive action this week. I just could not sit there in the stadium and write about that beat down that ensued. I am going to answer the two main questions I gathered from drunk fans screaming around me.
1.) Why aren’t we playing Keller Chryst?
- Keller Chryst transferred to Tennessee thinking he could walk in and win the starting job over the summer. Well, that just wasn’t the case and that was when it was wide open.If Keller was better, he would have the job.
- Most people are basing their arguments of him starting for his play against Alabama. When he came into the game, it had already been established that the game was over. After injuring JG, Saban definitely called the dogs off or at least tempered them. Keller was playing against a vanilla defense the rest of the game that had zero enthusiasm, because they new they could’ve literally beat us by 100 points. He got his time to shine against Missouri. He went 7 for 19 and two interceptions….
- In this case I think Pruitt is setting a precedent. That precedent is “We aren’t going to give up on our guy”. As much as some may hate it, JG is still most likely our guy next year. Unless Shrout or an incoming freshman wow the staff. So, Pruitt taking JG out due to bad play in the last game of the season, putting Keller in to find a miraculous comeback, to MAYBE going bowling. It just isn’t worth it. Most likely we put Chryst in and we still lose, now you have a guy in JG who has zero confidence and doesn’t want to play for you because you don’t believe in him. This is the big picture stuff, Vol fans. Recruits and young players already on the team that see these type of actions, respect it more than we even know.
2.) Were the Auburn and Kentucky wins flukes?
- No, they were not. I think both were perfect match ups for the type of talent we have. Timing and mindset helped us a lot as well.
- In regards to Auburn. They just came off an ugly emotional loss to Mississippi State the week before. We on the other hand, came off a bye week and were just ready to play. It was an 11:00 am Central time game for Auburn. Schedules for players and fans are thrown off. Breakfast tailgating just isn’t going to be as fun. Players probably have to be at the stadium by 8 or 9. Just a lot factored in outside the game itself. Inside the game, things just went our way. They played our receivers 1-on-1 most of the game with out over the top help. And you just can’t do that against our wide outs unless you are just causing havoc on the front line, which they really were not doing that either. It was the perfect storm in favor of the Vols on that day.
- In regards to Kentucky. 1984 was the last time they won in Knoxville. 33 years of pressure was against them. They play inside a phone booth and don’t have great quarterback play. That’s to our defense’s advantage. If our linebackers don’t have to operate out in open space and can play down hill, we are just fine. That’s what Kentucky allowed us to do. We made Terry Wilson try and beat us, and that he did not. We had our best day running the football and JG just played a solid game. So in this case it was just a prime matchup for our strengths as a team.
Listen, Pruitt made it clear early on, that it is going to take a whole new team to get back on track. This transition year was meant for setting a new foundation of culture, see what players are going to buy in, and win as many football games as we can with what we have. After that, it’s about recruiting his type of guys. It’s clear not all the Butch Jones players bought into what Pruitt was selling. That is where the lack of effort reared its ugly head in the last two games.
I don’t know yet what will happen with the OC position, but it’s sounding more like it will be someone else in the position come 2019. Janna Abraham and Trey Wallace made the notion that The Helton family isn’t in love with Knoxville and Tyson may not love working for Pruitt. And that’s OK. Sometimes people don’t mesh and things don’t work out. Move on before you make the case worse.
If we have said it once, we have said it a thousand times “Have to give Pruitt time”. He will make the right decisions. 6-6 and going to a bowl would have been grounds for calling this season a big success. Hate to say it, but we did improve with 5-7… At the beginning of the season, that is the record I believed we would finish with. Now, obviously did not expect 5-7 with two top 25 wins.. But 5-7 nonetheless.
It’s been a pleasure writing these articles this year. We are on to a big time basketball season ahead. I’ll be writing articles for our BasketVols all season long. Thanks for reading guys and gals.
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The headline photos are brought to you by my boy, Reese Shipley. Go check out he and his dad’s Facebook (Bill Shipley Photography).
Chattanooga, TN, US