In another instance of Tennessee (2-3, 0-2 SEC) grabbing an early lead only to be outscored down the stretch, the Vols fell to the Arkansas Razorbacks (2-3, 1-1 SEC) after a 14-point lead evaporated into a 24-20 loss Saturday.
Here’s how Tennessee graded:
After an Evan Berry kick return for a score to start the game and an opening drive capped by a Josh Dobbs 7-yard touchdown run, Tennessee’s offense struggled. From that point forward, the Vols could not reach the end zone. There were so many missed opportunities in this game, but the biggest might have been Preston Williams’ fumble on Arkansas’ 17-yard line. But, similar to its previous two losses, Tennessee’s second-half performance is was what did it in. The Vols were outrushed 141-4 in the second half, according to Jimmy Hyams of WNML in Knoxville. Jalen Hurd, who had 89 yards on the ground in the first half, rushed for only one yard on four carries in the final two quarters. Tennessee’s offense recorded a total of 90 yards and managed to score just three points in the second half. There’s no way that doesn’t validate an “F.”
Tennessee’s defense was far from impressive, but let’s consider several factors. The Vols faced the largest offensive line in college football, a running back in Alex Collins who entered as the SEC’s third-leading rusher behind two Heisman Trophy hopefuls — LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Georgia’s Nick Chubb — and one of the conference’s top tight ends in Hunter Henry. So yeah, Tennessee allowed Arkansas to beat it in the trenches and on short passing routes, that’s no surprise. However, the offense did little favors in keeping the defense off the field. Let’s also acknowledge that the Tennessee defense made a crucial stop on third down to force a punt with several minutes remaining and all three timeouts. So yeah, the defense wasn’t great, but it was hardly as bad as the offense Saturday.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
Evan Berry became the first Tennessee player to return multiple kickoffs for touchdowns since Willie Gault in 1980. Kicker Aaron Medley, despite missing a field goal early, provided Tennessee with its only three points of the second half and six after the first quarter. Punter Trevor Daniel had another solid performance with an average of 46.5 yards on four punts.
Butch Jones and staff provided little reason to make fans forget about the previous week’s lapses. Obviously, the offensive scheme is not working. Tennessee didn’t make an attempt at having a deep-threat offense, which is odd considering its roster is filled with several blue-chip wide receivers. The scheme was obvious and it seems seemed like every play was either a quarterback option, handoff or short pass. That’s not going to win games against good teams, which has been proven thus far.
This was a difficult game to watch if you’re a Tennessee fan. Once again, the Vols managed to stay close throughout the contest, which makes the loss all the more gut-wrenching. But the inability to score made it seem like Tennessee was facing a larger lead than it actually was throughout the game. Overall, it was a bad game that left fans wanting much more from a talented roster.