Tennessee starting quarterback Jarrett Guarantano received a lot of flack during and after Tennessee’s double-overtime loss to BYU on Saturday. And let’s not mince words here; Guarantano’s performance on Saturday night did little to help the Vols win. His first half touchdown throw should’ve been intercepted or at least batted down, and he was lucky his second touchdown pass was brought down by Jauan Jennings, too. Guarantano’s interception to begin the second half was one of the worst throws he’s made in his UT career.
On the night, Guarantano finished 17-of-28 for 176 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. All in all, it wasn’t the redshirt junior’s worst game of his Tennessee career, but it was far from his best.
Guarantano made a few nice throws, but overall he was late on a number of his attempts and simply made some bad reads on numerous occasions. On a night where the Vols ran for 242 yards and averaged nearly five yards per carry, Guarantano should’ve been able to have more success through the air.
But for a number of reasons, he didn’t.
Saturday’s performance follows a game last weekend where Guarantano threw for over 300 yards but still didn’t look sharp doing it. The redshirt junior has gotten off to a poor start in 2019, and fans have been relentlessly calling for his starting job.
One of Guarantano’s teammates still believes in him, though.
Junior running back Ty Chandler spoke with the media after the Vols’ 29-26 loss on Saturday, and he says he still has his quarterback’s back.
“I believe 100 percent in Jarrett,” Chandler said after the game. “He’s a great quarterback, a great leader on this team. He’s going to have his mind right for next week.
“We’re just going to keep getting better as a team. Everybody’s gonna encourage everybody.”
Chandler was one of the standouts for the Vols in Saturday’s loss. The junior nearly set a new career-high on the ground with 154 rushing yards on 26 carries. His game against BYU marked the second time in his career he eclipsed the 150-yard mark on the ground, and it was his third 100-yard rushing game at Tennessee.
But for all his efforts — and true freshman Eric Gray’s — the Vols’ offense was only able to score one touchdown in regulation, and UT had to settle for four field goals and only two touchdowns for the entire game.
Chandler sticking up for his quarterback should come as no surprise to Vol fans, but it’s very clear that the redshirt junior signal caller has a lot to work on as Tennessee prepares for SEC play in a couple weeks.
Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt said as much after the game on Saturday. He was asked about some of the missed throws Guarantano had during the game, and there were a couple glaring ones that immediately stood out to the Vols’ second-year head coach.
“I only saw two right before the half,” Pruitt said of Guarantano’s missed throws. “I knew exactly what the play was calling and where it was going. I thought we had chances to stick the ball. We got a field goal out of it, and I think there was a chance there to hit two of them.
“But we’ll see. We’ll see on tape.”
Aside from Tennessee’s opening drive of the game that took 7:15 of game time and ended in a touchdown on a fourth down play, the Vols couldn’t cash in on long drives. Tennessee put together a nine-play, 29-yard drive in the second quarter that took over five minutes off the clock, but they had to settle for a 51-yard field goal attempt (that Brent Cimaglia made). On the Vols’ last possession before halftime, UT moved 64 yards on six plays, but they couldn’t get a touchdown and kicked a field goal instead.
In the second half, Tennessee had a 14-play, 77-yard drive that chipped off nearly seven minutes of game clock, but again, that drive ended in three points rather than seven. The Vols had another six-play drive that went 45 yards that ended on a failed fourth down conversion attempt. That drive could’ve — and should’ve — resulted in points.
The theme on most of those drives? Missed throws by Guarantano and missed opportunities by the offense in general.
It doesn’t look like a move at the quarterback position is imminent for Tennessee, but fans are certainly calling for one. Ty Chandler believes Guarantano can right the ship, however.