What’s Causing Tennessee OC Alex Golesh To Lose Sleep?

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    Alex Golesh

    Tennessee OC Alex Golesh.

    Tennessee’s offense didn’t play up to its potential in Saturday’s overtime win over then-No. 17 Pitt. The Vols scored three touchdowns on consecutive first half drives before scoring just six points the rest of regulation.

    Two weeks into the season, Tennessee’s offense has had its good and its bad.

    It’s not the Vols’ struggles to avoid third-and-long that are keeping offensive coordinator Alex Golesh up at night. It’s not the three sacks Hendon Hooker took, nor is it the 2.6 yards Tennessee averaged on 35 carries. Heck, Pitt opponents have struggled to run the ball for nearly a decade.

    “We knew it was going to be tough sledding running the ball,” Golesh said. “How Pitt is built, they are really, really sound. They are going to force you to throw the football. I think for what was presented, which is what we prepared for, I think we ran the ball okay. ”

    Instead, it’s Tennessee’s propensity to put the ball on the ground that’s cause for concern for the Vols’ second year offensive coordinator.

    “We put a ball on the ground in short yardage,” Golesh said. “That is two weeks in a row. That is beyond disappointing and, in a lot of ways, unacceptable. If I lose sleep about anything, it’s that.”

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    Tennessee fumbled twice, losing just one of them, in the season opening blowout win over Ball State. The Vols recovered Jaylen Wright’s fumble while Ball State jumped on freshman tailback Justin Williams-Thomas fumble.

    Wright was Tennessee’s most used and most effective runner for the first 2.5 quarters against Pitt, tallying 47 yards on nine carries. But after the sophomore running back coughed up the ball on a third down run, Jabari Small earned every running back carry the rest of the game.

    “We can’t win games if we put the ball on the ground like that,” Golesh said. “We got away with one there, whether it was the football gods looking over us or maybe we are just that good of people. It turned out in our favor, but you can’t put the ball on the ground in tight games like that.”

    Golesh’s fumble concerns are well founded. Turnovers are a major part of football and the Vols have a starting quarterback who protects the ball as well as any in the country. In his 14 games at Tennessee, Hooker’s thrown 34 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.

    If Tennessee’s ball carriers can take care of the football, the Vols will be in prime position to win the turnover battle most games.

    Winning the turnover battle can easily be the difference in a tight game. With matchups against Florida and LSU looming, every small detail will have an impact on winning or losing.

    Ryan Schumpert is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. Ryan spent three years with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program before joining RTI. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.