5 Observations: South Carolina 15, Tennessee 9

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    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    Tennessee desperately needed a win on Saturday against South Carolina. But after a solid first quarter of play, the Vols put forth one of their worst offensive efforts under Butch Jones, and South Carolina managed to defeat Tennessee for the second consecutive season.

    The Vols tried their best to put together a game-winning drive with 1:13 left in the game after another South Carolina field goal made it 15-9. Tennessee managed to get it all the way down to the Gamecocks’ 2-yard line after a pass interference call in the endzone against South Carolina.

    But the Vols couldn’t find a way to score a touchdown there, and that was a running theme the entire game.

    The Vols fall to 3-3 on the season and are still looking for their first conference win of the season. And now many will wonder when, not if, Butch Jones will be fired after this game.

    Here are our five observations from Tennessee’s 15-9 loss to South Carolina on Saturday.

    Offense Disappears 

    The Vols came out and looked ready to play in this game. They grabbed their first lead against a Power Five opponent in regulation this season after a field goal gave them a 3-0 lead, and the offense totaled 133 yards of offense.

    But after that, the offense did absolutely nothing until the last drive of the game.

    Tennessee totaled just 50 yards of offense in the three quarters after the opening quarter before their final drive, and that includes a mere five yards of offense in the entire second half before Tennessee’s last drive. The Vols picked up eight first downs in the first quarter, but they managed just four first downs the rest of the game before that last possession.

    Vol fans thought the offense had hit rock bottom against Georgia. But Tennessee’s offense looked atrocious after the first quarter in this game, and the Vols haven’t score a touchdown since the second quarter of their game against UMass still.

    Guarantano Lacked Explosiveness

    Aside from the last drive of the game, Jarrett Guarantano’s first start showed very little explosiveness.

    Guarantano officially finished the game with 133 passing yards on 11-of-18 passing and just three rushing yards on 17 carries. Guarantano had just 60 passing yards before his final drive where he totaled 73 yards passing.

    His first start saw little in the way of big plays in the passing game or on the ground until that last drive. Tennessee didn’t dial up many deeper passes with Guarantano, and he held the ball too long on many occasions.

    Of course, Guarantano’s performance wasn’t all on him. The play-calling after the first half was unimaginative and lackluster, and then there was the offensive line…

    No Blocking for Anyone

    Yeah, it was bad. The offensive line was repeatedly blown up on both passing plays and running plays. John Kelly managed only 3.6 yards per carry, and aside from one big 24-yard run in the first quarter, he was bottled up. Ty Chandler didn’t get the ball enough, but it mattered little in the long run.

    South Carolina sacked Guarantano seven times and got pressure on him multiple other times. The line was ineffective and rarely opened up holes for any of the Vols’ running backs or Guarantano to run through.

    Best Bye Week Ever?

    Butch Jones said after Tennessee’s bye week that it was “one of the best bye weeks we’ve had here.”

    That statement, however, proved to be false.

    For the second consecutive year, South Carolina defeated Tennessee coming off a bye week. And this time, they did it without allowing the Vols to score a touchdown.

    Tennessee made a change at quarterback, but it mattered little because of play-calling and poor execution yet again. The Vols still haven’t scored a touchdown since the second quarter of their match-up against UMass.

    It’s been 10 quarters now since Tennessee scored their last touchdown.

    Is It Over for Butch?

    Vol fans were already calling for Butch Jones’ head after Tennessee’s 41-0 loss to Georgia two weks ago. But now the focus has turned from “if” to “when” Jones will be out as head coach.

    The Vols are still winless in conference play after three SEC games, and this is the second straight year that Tennessee has lost to the Gamecocks off a bye week. Tennessee’s offense has looked inept for the last three weeks, and that goes back to coaching.

    Butch Jones may have just coached his last game at Tennessee.

    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.