Rocky flop in Tennessee

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jim steele pressbox

After watching Tennessee’s effort, or, really, the lack of it, I am wondering where the victories are coming from moving forward.

After this dismal showing Saturday against Georgia State (of the Sun Belt conference, oh by the way), I fear this Volunteer team may be headed to a 1-11 season … at best.

This is not hyperbole. I’m serious.

Georgia State claimed a 38-30 decision over the Vols, its first against a Power 5 team. And believe me, this game wasn’t as close as the score indicated. The Panthers outmuscled the Vols.

There seemed to be no fire, no sense of urgency, not much of anything. I understand that it’s hard to get inspired when you are playing a 2-10, Group-Of-Five team but, for crying out loud, it’s the season opener.

How can this team not be animated?

Maybe the fans knew something we didn’t. Neyland Stadium had an announced a crowd of 85,503.

I had a few thoughts.

For starters, GSU coach Shawn Elliott always has been a fiery character. If you watched his demeanor when he was offensive line coach at Appalachian State, he was excited, animated and inspiring. What happened? Division 1-AA Appy State beat No. 5 Michigan at the Big House 12 years ago.

You saw Elliott on the sideline. He was positive, effervescent and involved.

Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt is reticent and un-emotive. I think, sometimes, a team takes on the personality of its coach.

It sure looked like it on Saturday.

As a result, the Panthers made Tennessee’s defense look silly, especially after the 2-point conversion try mid way in the fourth frame. The completion was negated by a penalty, but the Tennessee defense showed it was overmatched by a Sun Belt team.

It was tough to watch Tennessee complete a long pass to Dom Wood-Anderson only to settle for a field goal early in the fourth quarter.

Spurrier always talked about touchdowns. It seems, as it has even since the days of Fulmer, that the Vols are content to settle for field goals. And it cost them. Maybe that’s why Spurrier mastered the Vols all those years ago.

I didn’t see any players take on the mantle of leadership like, say, Al Wilson. Would somebody like Wilson have allowed Georgia State to convert 10-of-15 third down plays?

The Vols looked disorganized, made too many mistakes, played with no urgency whatsoever. And as a result, Georgia State left Tennessee’s nose bloodied and left the Big Orange embarrassed, as if it needed to be embarrassed any further.

I just hope this doesn’t hurt Tennessee’s recruiting, including the current players who have committed.

Let’s be honest, this team isn’t very good. Elliott’s mantra for his Panthers this week was to believe. It seems the Vols’ mantra was “wake me up when it’s over.” Where do the Vols go from here? I don’t know. I didn’t think it could get much worse, but it turns out I was wrong.

Where are the wins coming from? Maybe Chattanooga. Past that, the Vols may not be favored any other time this season. Georgia State didn’t just win this game, it kicked Tennessee’s backside and did so in Knoxville.

Keep in mind, this was just Georgia State. I shudder to think what Georgia is going to do to this team.

Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of The Pressbox, which airs 4-6 p.m. CT, Monday-Thursday on WRJB 95.9 FM, Camden, Tenn.

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