Lots of luck was on Tennessee football’s side against the Brigham Young University Cougars. And the UT Volunteers still managed to lose that game.
It’s appropriate to point to the improvements Tennessee football made from its first to its second game against the BYU Cougars. The Vols deserve credit for their rushing attack, their increased push on both sides of the trenches, and their continued elite kicking game.
But while everybody focuses on the unfortunate Hail Mary thrown by Zach Wilson to Micah Simon to set up the game-tying field goal that sent the game into overtime, very few people will focus on how lucky the Vols were. Tons of breaks went their way, which is why they should have won.
They say it’s sometimes better to be lucky than good. That wasn’t the case for Tennessee football on Saturday. In fact, their 29-26 double-overtime loss to the BYU Cougars had tons of things working in their favor.
On their first offensive drive, Jauan Jennings caught the only touchdown UT scored in regulation. It was off a tipped ball on 4th and goal. The pass was a terrible one by Jarrett Guarantano and should have been intercepted. But it wasn’t and that by itself is luck.
Then there is the issue with BYU’s play-calling. Say what you want, but the Vols lucked out by the fact that the Cougars were horrible with their offensive plays. They have a dual-threat quarterback and an SEC running back who once torched the Vols before but completely went away from the option, which the Georgia State Panthers used to torch UT a week before.
One very curious sequence happened in the third quarter. BYU had cut it to a field goal game after scoring a touchdown following Guarantano’s horrible interception. Then they got the ball back and had all of the momentum down 13-10.
Ty’Son Williams took a carry six yards on 2nd and 7 to bring up 3rd and 1 in Vol territory, and the defense was beginning to wilt. But then Kalani Sitake and his staff decided to call an inexplicable pass play on 3rd and 1. You thought maybe he would go for it on 4th down with such a bad 3rd down call, but he didn’t. He punted it.
The punt only went 28 yard, even though it did pin the Vols inside the 20 on their own 17. But who makes that decision down 13-10 in the second half when its 4th and 1 in the other team’s territory and that team can’t stop your rushing attack?
On top of that, we already mentioned the pass Guarantano threw into double-coverage that was tipped and caught for a touchdown. His lone interception came off a pass into triple-coverage. But he threw three more passes in regulation into double-coverage, and all of them were incomplete.
So the guy threw five passes into deep coverage, and only one was intercepted while another was a touchdown pass. Could Tennessee football ask for anymore luck than that? Of course they couldn’t, but they got it anyway.
BYU’s Hail Mary pass to set up the game-tying field goal also had some luck involved. But it was luck for the Vols. That play happened because Alontae Taylor was out of position, and then Nigel Warrior took a horrible angle to make the tackle. So those weren’t points of bad luck but rather mental lapses.
Meanwhile, Simon caught it and had nobody between him and the end zone. UT was lucky enough for him to slow up just a bit, allowing Shawn Shamburger to catch up to him and almost make the tackle before Taylor was the one to run him down and make it.
Simply put, Tennessee football had lots of breaks for them to even be in control of the game in regulation and still lost. Now, many different units did show up for the Vols. But that has to be concerning for Jeremy Pruitt and his staff going forward. They did not cash in on all the breaks they got, and as a result, they’re 0-2.