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Pruitt Questions Offensive Play-Calling in Missouri Loss

Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

It took Tennessee’s offense a quarter to actually start moving the ball on Saturday against Missouri. But even after an improved second quarter and a good start to the third quarter, the Vols’ offense was inadequate against the Tigers.

Tennessee fell 50-17 to Missouri for the second year in a row, and while the defense will get a lot of the blame for the loss, the offense didn’t do much to take advantage of a strong start by the defense.

The Vols held Missouri’s offense to just six points in their first four offensive possessions, but Tennessee’s offense was downright abysmal in their first three possessions of the game. UT’s offense went three-and-out on all three of their possessions in the first quarter, and they ended the opening quarter of play with -17 yards of offense.

Tennessee would recover and gain 155 yards of offense in the second quarter after Keller Chryst entered the game at quarterback for the injured Jarrett Guarantano, but it took a 33-yard run by Ty Chandler to get the Vols out of the negative yardage total in the ground game.

On the night, the Vols finished with 82 rushing yards on 28 attempts, and if not for a Tim Jordan 18-yard run and a Chandler 22-yard run on Tennessee’s final possession in garbage time in the fourth quarter, those numbers would’ve been far worse.

After the game, head coach Jeremy Pruitt was asked about the Vols’ rushing attack and why they struggled to run the ball against Missouri a week after they ripped through Kentucky’s stout run defense. And Pruitt responded by questioning the effectiveness of some of the play calls on offense.

“When they have more in than we can block, we don’t need to be running the ball in there. Which we did multiple times tonight,” Pruitt said. “We have to have ways to get the ball out on the perimeter, whether it’s bubble (screens), slants, stabs, whatever you want to call it. We just didn’t take advantage of that all the time. So when you have six to block seven, and you hand the ball off in there, and hey your six guys, some days, your six guys can get on the six guys … maybe you’re not good enough to beat the one extra guy. Sometimes maybe you are. But we weren’t today.”

Pruitt noted that all his frustrations weren’t on the play-calling; the execution from Tennessee’s blockers weren’t what he wanted either. But it’s clear that UT’s head coach wasn’t a fan of the way Tennessee’s run game was utilized on Saturday.

Offensive coordinator Tyson Helton has drawn criticism from Vol fans for a lot of this season for his play-calling, but Pruitt has mostly avoided any eye-catching headlines when asked about Helton’s role this year. This is the closest Pruitt has gotten to directly calling out his OC, and it’s clear he wasn’t a fan of what the offense did on Saturday.

Tennessee finished the game with 17 total points on offense and 255 yards accumulated. The Vols averaged 5.2 yards per play on just 49 total plays. The Vols turned it over three times on offense, and Missouri scored three touchdowns off those turnovers. Tennessee was also just 2-of-10 on third down on the game.

No matter how you slice it, Saturday’s game was a failure for Tennessee. And Pruitt’s comments on the play-calling will be worth monitoring moving forward.

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One Response

  1. Our program has been on a down hill slide ever since we won the National Championship in 1998 and god only knows if we will ever be an elite program again. I surely hope this coaching staff can recruit kids that are not only physically strong but mentally strong as well. I believe the kids we have today are good kids and want to perform at a higher level but for what ever reason some obviously struggle to do so. Hopefully this can and will be overcome in the days, weeks, and months ahead thru the leadership, patience, recruiting ability and stability of the current Coaching staff. One game to go and if the kids will suck it up and mentally and Physically put forth their best efforts they can and will win, if they perform at the same level they did Sat. Vandy will clean their clock. Guaranteed.

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