ATHENS, Ga. — Tennessee won an unforgettable instant classic Saturday, shocking Georgia 34-31 on a Hail Mary on the final play.
While coach Butch Jones once again admired his team’s resiliency, he fully acknowledged the Volunteers are playing with fire right now.
“It’s concerning,” Jones said after Tennessee spotted Georgia 17 points on Saturday.
“Every person in the locker room understands we have to be better in the first half.”
For the fourth time in five games, Tennessee trailed by double-digits before halftime. The Vols survived against Florida and Georgia, but early holes won’t cut it against Texas A&M and Alabama.
Not if Tennessee has championship aspirations.
“I’m as mind-boggled as everyone else on the slow starts,” Jones said.
Jones has pulled his hair out trying to diagnose the problem.
He’s altered UT’s practice schedule. Closely monitored his team’s rest and recovery throughout the week and even changed some pregame routines.
Nothing has worked, but it ultimately hasn’t mattered.
The Volunteers impressively rallied once again Saturday, finding their footing and refusing to quit. They rallied from a 17-0 hole, outscoring the Bulldogs 27-14 after halftime — with stunning swings of momentum until the very last play.
Tennessee win % with :19 left = 98.4%
UGA win % with :10 left = 99.9%
Tennessee win % with :00 left = 100% pic.twitter.com/SnQsYtLQ8g
— BeatinTheBookie.com™ (@BeatinTheBookie) October 1, 2016
“We always talk about 60 minutes of football,” junior safety Todd Kelly Jr. said.
“Not 59 minutes and 50 seconds.”
Tennessee can be aptly named the ‘Comeback Kids,’ but a team can only flirt with disaster for so long. The Vols have been outscored 41-10 in the first quarter this season.
“We will make it a teaching point,” Jones said.
“But at the end of the day, the best you can be is 5-0 and we are 5-0. … We’re just finding ways to win football games. What can I say?”