Nobody’s going to deny the fact that the Georgia Bulldogs flat-out dominated Tennessee football Saturday. It came down to a few factors.
Georgia’s defensive backs shut down the Vols’ receivers, taking away big plays over the top. They also wrecked the Vols up front, picking up six sacks. Then there were the penalties.
However, Josh Heupel was able to narrow the issues down to two factors: communication and missed opportunities. As for protection, it came down to communication.
“I didn’t think, all in all, we handled the noise very well,” he said. “That’s false starts. It’s being in sync, communication up front. At the end of the day, that hurt us — certainly early in the football game, and then at times throughout the course of it.”
Penalties and sacks killed multiple Vols drives inside the red zone. As Heupel noted, a 75-yard punt by Georgia that changed the game was also only important because of what UT’s offense did after that, which involved a sack.
Every time Hendon Hooker dropped back, he seemed to be seeing pressure he wasn’t ready for. However, Heupel did not seem to think Kirby Smart threw anything at him they weren’t aware of.
“There were some things that showed up from their tape that appeared more often,” he said. “We had anticipated seeing a bunch of different looks from them throughout the course of the football game.”
There is some validity to communication when it comes to protection. It’s clear with the numerous pre-snap penalties that the Georgia crowd did get to Tennessee football.
Combine that with Georgia’s cornerbacks proving themselves, which they did guarding the Vols’ receivers one-on-one, and you have a recipe for what happened. Heupel noted there were times the receivers did win, though.
You put a little bit of any of those things together and you’re not efficient, not able to play ahead, not able to play with any tempo. Again, that’s part us, but part them, too.
“I thought, when it looked the way that it did tonight at times, where you’re struggling and not efficient, not playing ahead, there’s times the guys were winning,” he said. “We came off it too early. There were times that we didn’t win. There were protection issues, miscommunication. You put a little bit of any of those things together and you’re not efficient, not able to play ahead, not able to play with any tempo.”
Then there were just the missed opportunities, as mentioned earlier. In spite of everything, the Vols did have two deep passes that should’ve been touchdowns.
Hooker overthrew Jalin Hyatt for one of them, and he overthrew Bru McCoy for another. He also overthrew Princeton Fant on a similar play, but Fant isn’t a wideout, to be fair.
“At certain points, they were able to play two high safeties, certainly in their structure,” Heupel said of Georgia’s defense. “There were opportunities that we had down the football field, too, and tonight we didn’t connect — early with Jalin down the middle of the football field, and certainly opportunities throughout the course or there over the middle of the field, and then late in the football game, too, down the sideline.”
There’s no denying the fact that the Vols had tons of issues in this game. It’s still hard to say, though, that they were just lapses and not a personnel gap between them and Georgia.
However, it’s nothing they can’t fix, according to Heupel. That’s a good sign for Tennessee football going forward since they are in the College Football Playoff race.
“We’ll reset. We got to this point by focusing on one game at a time, and, for us, I hate the way that this one turned out, for sure,” he said. “Everybody hurts inside of that locker room. We’ve got to reset and get back to work on Monday.”