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Vols Will Need “Magic” to Fix Their Offensive Woes

Photo By Kyle Zedaker/Tennessee Athletics

Redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano said after Tennessee’s 45-7 loss to Alabama that the remaining five games would be “magical.”

“We have 35 days left,” Guarantano said after the game. “And for those 35 days, we’re going to give our all for Tennessee. And they’re going to be a magical 35 days for our program.”

Guarantano could be right about that, only time will tell. But his offense is going to need some magic if they want to fix their ineptitude.

The Vols have now gone 14 consecutive quarters without scoring an offensive touchdown. Not only that, but the Vols’ just turned in one of their worst offensive performances in recent memory when they lost to Alabama on Saturday.

Tennessee totaled a mere 108 yards of offense on 46 plays against the Tide during their 45-7 loss. The Vols’ averaged 2.3 yards per play in the game and had more punts (9) than first downs (7). Six of the Vols’ 11 offensive possessions ended in a three-and-out, and another one ended in an interception at the goal line.

In my research, I couldn’t find a game in which the Vols’ totaled fewer offensive yards in a single game dating all the way back to 2000. Information on game-by-game totals gets harder and harder to find once you leave the 2000s, but one thing is for certain: Yesterday’s offensive output was the worst the Vols had put up in well over a decade. Probably much longer as well.

The Vols’ 108 yards of offense yesterday marked the second time this season Tennessee’s offense had been held below 200 yards in a game. Tennessee was held to a meager 142 yards of offense against Georgia earlier this season as well.

Tennessee hasn’t had 200 or fewer yards of offense twice in the same season since 2011 when they were held to 155 against Alabama and 186 against South Carolina. But right now, the Vols’ 2017 offense is looking even worse than the 2011 offense. In fact, this year’s offense is looking even worse than the Vols’ 2008 offense.

And that 2008 offense is considered the worst offense in Tennessee’s modern era.

Over the last four games, the Vols have totaled just 822 yards of offense and 26 offensive points. That means Tennessee’s offense has averaged 205.5 yards and 6.5 points against UMass, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama. The worst four-game stretch the 2008 offense endured was when they totaled 842 yards and 42 points in consecutive games against Alabama, South Carolina, Wyoming, and Vanderbilt.

The Vols’ 2008 offense totaled just 3,225 yards in 12 games that season. That offensive output was the worst any Tennessee team had put forth since the 1977 team totaled just 3,220 in 11 games. Tennessee’s 2017 offense has just 2,028 yards of offense through seven games this season. That’s an average of 289.7 yards a game, which is slightly better than the 268.8 yards the 2008 team averaged but worse than the 292.7 yards the 1977 team averaged.

And if those numbers aren’t bad enough for you, then here are some more.

Tennessee has converted just 31.3 percent of their third downs this season. That’s the worst mark in the SEC and the 13th-worst in the entire nation. The Vols have picked up just 20.8 percent of their third downs in SEC play, and they’ve converted only two of their 24 third down attempts against the two ranked opponents they’ve played this season.

The Vols’ red zone offense is also worst in the SEC. They’ve scored on just 70 percent of their red zone possessions, and only 50 percent of their red zone trips have ended in a touchdown.

Tennessee doesn’t have a single red zone touchdown in SEC play this season. Let that sink in for a moment.

So far this season, the Vols have been outscored 127 to 36 in four conference games, and 20 of those points came in one game against Florida. The Vols have just 113 first downs on the season, and they have the fewest “big plays” on offense by far in the SEC. Tennessee has just 19 plays of 20 or more yards this season. The next-closest total in the SEC is 24 such plays by Florida.

The Vols do have some easier defenses on the slate in the coming weeks, but their offense even looked inept against winless UMass and middling SEC defenses such as Florida (until the fourth quarter) and South Carolina.

Guarantano said the last five games would be “magical” for the Vols. What’s more evident is that the Vols will need some type of magic to make their offense come alive for the final five games.

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