Look at the statistics from Saturday’s game against Florida and you’ll see that Tennessee was 3-of-4 in the red zone.
Not perfect, but that seems to be an acceptable number when just glancing at the stat sheet. But as Butch Jones regularly says, you have to look at more than just the stats. Three field goals and zero touchdowns isn’t getting the job done in the red zone – especially when the offense was handed the ball inside the 20 on two of those possessions.
Much of that failure in the red zone fell on senior quarterback Justin Worley. He threw an interception that ended the first red-zone threat after being handed the ball at the Florida 13. His total line on snaps taken inside the red zone was 2 of 5 passing for -4 yards, an interception and he took a sack. In total, the Vols moved 11 yards backwards and turned the ball over in red-zone opportunities.
Not exactly a formula to score touchdowns.
“There hasn’t been a common theme, the one is just an overall decision process, is making good decisions with the football,” coach Butch Jones said of Worley’s struggles in the red zone. “Managing the football game it is first-and-ten, we expect that from a senior quarterback, throw the ball away, as we say, `put it on the shelf, play second-and-ten.’ That is football.
“A quarterback is in charge of that football and that football holds all your dreams, goals and aspirations. He understands that, throw the ball away. Some of it is decision-making process, some of it is other individuals around him.”
The Vols do need more from receivers, who struggled to find much open space against Florida’s man-to-man defense. The running game wasn’t much of a help there either. The Vols struggled on the ground all day, and that was especially true in the red zone.
In the run game, With Worley’s sack factored in, the Vols actually went seven yards in the wrong direction on snaps that were taken inside the Florida 20.
“I think it’s going to be huge for us this week,” Worley said of re-establishing the run game. “I think to be able to establish a run can build some confidence for these front five guys, as well as create some balance and stop some tendencies that we have.”
But Jones ultimately pointed to Worley as the one who has to lead the Vols into the end zone and make sure they aren’t settling for less. His decision-making needs to be better, he can’t turn the football over and the Vols certainly can’t go backwards.
They’ll have more margin for error this week with Chattanooga in town, but with the likes of Ole Miss and Alabama on the horizon, settling for three points instead of seven could be a recipe for disaster. That’s an area the Vols – with their low margin of error this season – will have to capitalize in.
“You have 2 to 2.8 seconds to make a split-second decision – your fundamentals, your mechanics, take care of the football and everyone running at you trying to tackle you,” Jones said. “That is why it is a difficult job, but for the most part he has done a good job of really limiting the mistakes, but in the red zone everything is magnified. The speed aspect of it, the field shrinks and, then again, we have to go back to winning the red zone.”