A disastrous season-opener for Tennessee football ended with the Volunteers losing to the Georgia State Panthers 38-30. Here are five takeaways.
It was embarrassing from the start after a turnover on the second play. Tennessee football suffered one of its worst upset losses in school history to open the 2019 season, falling to the Georgia State Panthers, who went 2-10 last year, 38-30.
Shawn Elliott, who was 4-3 against the Vols and 2-1 against Jeremy Pruitt when he was with the South Carolina Gamecocks, continued his torment of Rocky Top. After allowing a GSU touchdown off that first touchdown, the Vols appeared to get back in control with back to back touchdowns to go up 14-7.
But the Panthers then scored again, and UT went into halftime only ahead 17-14 after a late field goal. GSU scored three touchdowns and a field goal in the second half while forcing two more turnovers, and Tennessee football could only get two more field goals. They took a 23-21 lead off one of them only to see the Panthers score a TD on the very next drive.
With the win, a Vols team coming off a 5-7 season with six losses by 25 or more points is already in panic mode. Georgia State, meanwhile, moved to 1-0 coming off a 2-10 season.
Jarrett Guarantano completed 26 of 40 passes for 311 yards, two touchdowns and an interceptions, and Jauan Jennings had seven receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown. However, the Vols had only 93 rushing yards. Here are five takeaways from Tennessee football’s season-opening loss.
1. Back seven could not contain Dan Ellington
This was a warning sign going in without Daniel Bituli to call the plays. The Vols’ linebackers needed to find a way to keep Ellington, who led last year’s team in rushing and passing, in check. They didn’t. Ellington had 61 rushing yards, 139 passing yards, and three total touchdowns. His misdirection plays set up the whole offense, with the team rushing for over 200 yards altogether.
2. Defensive line got pushed around.
One major problem for the Vols was the fact that they could not get a push up front. The loss of all three defensive linemen and season-ending injury to Emmit Gooden showed. Aubrey Solomon’s eligibility was of no benefit. Going forward, they have got to play much better. This season is already turning into a disaster, and that’s one way to make it better.
3. Offensive mistakes were an issue.
Ty Chandler fumbled twice, recovering one despite rushing for eight yards a carry. Jarrett Guarantano was hit and fumbled late. Then he threw an interception. Tennessee football has some serious issues with consistency, and the play-calling was part of the problem. That needs to be fixed immediately.
4. Red zone offense was atrocious.
The Vols left far too many points on the field. They kicked three field goals and should have had two touchdowns off of them. On one of them, Guarantano threw an interception that was waived off due to a pass interference penalty. Then they had to settle for a field goal late in the first half anyway. It was
5. Special teams was one bright spot.
Outside of a Marquez Callaway fumble that he recovered, the Vols may look good on special teams. Paxton Brooks was great on kickoffs. Joe Doyle had a 47-yard punt pinned inside the 20-yard line. And Brent Cimaglia built off his elite play last year, nailing three field goals, one from 48 yards. Oh, and Callaway did have a 35-yard return on that fumble. So the unit as a whole is a strength, but it wasn’t enough to overcome all the other issues Saturday.