Tennessee didn’t look championship worthy against Austin Peay. There’s no denying that. However, that doesn’t mean there can’t be lessons learned from the lack-luster contest.
The Vols’ 30-13 win wasn’t fun to watch for most any fan clad in orange. There were early incompletions that could be blamed on errant passes or just plain drops by receivers. Still, Tennessee’s defense, running game and special teams were stout and far more than enough to beat the Governors.
“Absolutely,” UT coach Josh Heupel said when asked if the semi-close call could have a positive effect on the Vols. “I mean, as much as anything, the competitive edge that you have to be on the right side of it is extremely important. And the difference between success and failure in this game is really small. So it wasn’t all 11 all at one time. We can be better, need to be better. These guys care. They got a great care factor. So we’ll have great week of practice.”
The Vols care so much that they held a players meeting on Sunday without any coaches present. Per Heupel after practice on Monday, it seemed to work.
“Got really good energy out on the grass with them today, but really good in the meeting room too,” Heupel said “Anticipated that from these guys. We’ve got strong leadership. Guys care about their performance, but they care how they get there too. I said it after the game too. I didn’t feel like we did prepare the right way. At the end of the day, we were on the right side of the competitive edge to go play the way that we’re capable of.
“That being said, there are a lot of things that we did really well too during the course of the game. I thought the effort, strain energy, technique on special teams was really good. Defensively, played really sound…Gap assignments, a lot of couple big runs really in the football game. But other than, really good offensively. We ran it for dang near eight yards per carry and had some efficiency in the pass game too. Penalties in the red zone in particular, dropped balls, hit a couple more passes (and it will) lead to a different score. And certainly one that we all want. But those are all things that we control in it. That was a big point of emphasis today with our guys, control the controllable, which is what sits in that room and how we prepare.”
Tennessee is slated to play Florida in Gainesville on Saturday. The Vols have been named an -8.5 favorite.