There are many ways to respond to Tennessee football’s loss to the Georgia State Panthers. But the Volunteers players are doing everything right after GSU.
It’s one thing to suffer a horrific loss. Tennessee football is not the worst and won’t be the last major college program to have that happen. However, it’s a completely different thing altogether to respond the right way to it.
So far, after Saturday’s loss to Georgia State, the Vols players have been handling the issue well. They said all the right things immediately after the game, with Nigel Warrior saying he’s “flabbergasted,” Jarrett Guarantano saying he’s “disgusted” and Darrell Taylor and Marquez Callaway both alluding to hitting reality.
Then Tennessee football held a players-only meeting after the loss. And on Tuesday, Jauan Jennings vowed that the Vols would respond the right way, taking a role as a leader and trying to keep his teams’ head up.
These are all the right ways to handle a loss of this magnitude. You need to act like it’s unacceptable and be angry about it. Then you need to address what went wrong and make sure you stay focused on the task at hand.
Contrast that with Jeremy Pruitt following the game. Immediately after, he said that Georgia State out-executed and out-coached the Vols and credited their game-plan. He talked about all the mental errors and the turnovers. And he noted that the Vols did not play their best ball and that GSU had a lot to do with that.
Pruitt added onto that into the week. And it’s not the response you always hope for. Again, while those things are all true, it does not address UT losing to such a bad team. None of it should have mattered, and Pruitt should have made clear that this was not okay.
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Contrasting what Pruitt did with what the players did brings up questions about how the team will respond overall. Simply put, Pruitt is acting like this was not an effort problem while the players are making it clear that it was.
To be fair, Pruitt is a fiery guy and always demands high expectations. He’s just as reserved after a big win, like he was last year when Tennessee football upset the Auburn Tigers and Kentucky Wildcats, as he was after this loss.
Taking that into account, it’s likely that his style allows the players know they messed up. How they responded is still a reflection on him, so that should be encouraging for Vol Nation overall. But the fans at least deserved a more impassioned response from the head coach.
If the Vols turn things around, senior leaders like Jennings will be the reason. They need to make sure everybody knows that what happened is not okay, and they have so far done a good job of showing that. The more they make clear that the loss was disastrous, and the more they keep it in their heads, the better off they’ll be.