The Vols were looking for their first victory over a ranked opponent since defeating Georgia last season in Athens when No. 20 LSU came to town. But they didn’t find it on Saturday, as LSU ran all over the Vols en route to a 30-10 victory.
Tennessee came out with some energy, but an already out-matched Vol squad got even more out-matched as the game went on because of more injuries piling up.
Here are our five biggest takeaways from the Vols’ ugly loss to LSU.
Special Teams Was Far from Special
Tennessee’s special teams has been a point of pride the last few seasons thanks to players like Evan Berry, Trevor Daniel, and Cam Sutton. But tonight against LSU, the Vols’ special teams were a disaster.
Marquez Callaway fumbled two punts, and LSU scored on both their ensuing possessions off those fumbles. Both fumbled punts were recovered inside Tennessee’s 20-yard line, and they set up LSU with extremely short fields to get a field goal and a touchdown.
Tennessee already had a lot to overcome in this game. Turning the ball over repeatedly on special teams only made it worse.
Offense Takes Risks
The Vols’ offense took more risks in this game than they did all season prior. And it paid off in some respects. But mostly, those risks came up short.
Tennessee went for it on fourth down four times, but they only converted once. They also took some shots downfield and connected on a few. Marquez Callaway pulled in a 46-yard touchdown and Jeff George hauled in a 60-yard reception.
But that was about it for the Vols’ offense. Their run game was stuffed and totaled just 38 yards on 34 carries. All in all, the offense looked a little better, but they couldn’t overcome all their injuries.
More Injuries, More Walk-Ons
Speaking of those injuries, the Vols had even more tonight. Jashon Robertson exited at one point, and walk-on Joe Keeler was forced into action on the offensive line. Walk-on running back Malik Elion got into the game in the first half as well and caught a 10-yard pass.
Kahlil McKenzie, Darrell Taylor, Jonathan Kongbo, and Marquez Callaway all exited briefly or for extended periods of time with injury in the game. Quarterback Will McBride did not dress for the game, and the Vols were short Drew Richmond, Brett Kendrick, and Marcus Tatum on the line to start the game as well.
Eliminated, Trying to Avoid History
Tennessee’s loss to LSU eliminated them from bowl contention. Tennessee is now 4-7 on the season and 0-7 in conference play.
A loss next week to Vanderbilt would be historic for the Vols. Tennessee has never lost eight or more games in a season, and they’ve never gone winless in SEC play since joining the SEC in 1933. Both of those are at stake next Saturday.
A Downpour Wreaks Havoc
One of the bigger stories from this game had little to do with the actual play on the field. A torrential downpour started right as the teams were coming out for the start of the second half, and even some of the lights in Neyland Stadium went out. But despite that, there was no delay in the game.
The Vols received the kickoff to start the second half, lost the ball in the dim lighting and the downpour, and took over at their own three as they raced to the ball and fell on top of it. Things never got on track for Tennessee in the second half after that.