Tennessee’s victory on Saturday night was a victory, yes, but one that left more questions rather than answered questions. No. 9 Tennessee defeated Austin Peay by a score of 30-13 behind a strong defensive effort and some second-half scoring from the offense.
This was a game where Tennessee was supposed to win by 40 points. But, points aside, this was a game where Tennessee should have been able to empty out the bench and allow young players some much-needed reps ahead of the SEC slate starting this Saturday in Gainesville, Florida.
So what happened?
Tennessee’s offense took some time to get synched up, particularly in the first half of play. Milton’s first few downfield passes were catchable but a step behind while the receivers had trouble with dropped receptions throughout the night. Tennessee’s running back room and offensive line helped carry the Vols’ offense forward with exactly half of Tennessee’s 456 yards of total offense.
“A win? Absolutely,” Josh Heupel said after the game. “Do we need to be a whole lot better? Yes. Absolutely. In particular offensively.”
It was evident in Heupel’s postgame press conference that the third-year head coach felt good about getting the victory on Saturday but certainly acknowledged the fact that Tennessee underperformed at times during the game. Still, though, the game is in the rearview mirror and the Vols don’t have time to get caught up in what could have been. Tennessee opens the SEC slate with a road game against Florida at night this coming Saturday.
Heupel spoke after the Austin Peay game about how he wants to see his team respond this week.
“The job for us is to be the best football team on the field every Saturday,” Heupel said. “You walk off the field and see the scoreboard and either accomplish that goal or you didn’t. We have to come back in, learn, reset and grow from it, certainly, as we head into conference play we’re going to need to be better than we were tonight. Are we capable of doing those things? Absolutely. There are really small things. Some of our things at wide out— we’ve seen those guys operate, function and handle all that at a really high level. So urgency in how we come back tomorrow afternoon and on Monday I think is absolutely critical for us.”
No. 11 Tennessee will travel to Gainesville, Florida for their SEC opener against the Florida Gators next Saturday night.
“I’ll say this, I didn’t feel like we were unfocused last week,” Heupel continued on to say. “We just have to take strides. Obviously, the environment will be a good one next week and a good quality opponent.”