After a couple of mistakes last week, Tennessee football turned away from Ty Chandler. That was a huge mistake, and the Volunteers can’t do that Saturday.
Last week, Ty Chandler made a couple of key mistakes that set the tone early as Tennessee football lost to the Georgia State Panthers. The most notable error was his fumble on the second play of the game to spot GSU their first touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
After fumbling again later in the half, Jim Chaney began to turn more to Eric Gray. That was a mistake. The last time the Vols had taken the field, in a loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores, Chandler had an 80-yard touchdown run to make the game close in the second half. But the Vols lost because Tyson Helton went away from him the rest of the game.
Despite those fumbles, Chandler still had six carries for 48 yards and a touchdown. So his numbers remained impressive, and he is still Tennessee football’s best offensive weapon. And after his first five carries, the Vols had a 14-7 lead.
Then they got the ball back with that lead, and Chandler got one touch the rest of the way. Notice the lead went from 14-7 to 21-17 and then 28-23 and then 35-23 during that time. Simply put, the Vols went away from Chandler, and they lost. Is there any debate that he needs to be their feature back?
Eric Gray and Tim Jordan both had seven carries to Chandler’s six last week. Gray only had 29 yards, and Jordan only had 16. Sorry, but even if you think Gray’s future as the speedy back is brighter, Chandler is the better player right now.
And while there were mistakes when it came to fumbles, Gray had his own share of mistakes. It’s pretty dangerous when a running back doesn’t pick up a blitz on a passing down, and Gray struggled with that throughout the day, which is to be expected of a true freshman.
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But the real story is the mistake Tennessee football made turning away from Chandler. You don’t turn away from your best player just because he’s made a couple of bad plays. Would Chaney bench Jarrett Guarantano if he threw two interceptions in a half? Of course he wouldn’t! That’s a ridiculous overreaction.
The fact of the matter is Chandler averaged five and a half yards a carry last year despite the Vols’ horrendous offensive line. He also became the first UT running back to have three receiving touchdowns in three straight games.
Add in his 24 yards a kick return in three returns last Saturday and the fact that he has a kickoff return for a touchdown on his resume, and nobody can deny that he is the best offensive player with the ball in his hands. But again, the standout story is he got one more touch after giving the Vols their only lead in the game, and after his second fumble, he was yanked.
Against the BYU Cougars, Chaney needs to stick with Chandler the whole game. Going away from him will result in losing every time they take the field this year. Sticking with him gives them a chance to compete in every game. The fumbles were anomalies.