Three Reasons Why: Tennessee lost its season vs South Carolina
Photo Credit To Knox News

Three Reasons Why: Tennessee lost its season vs South Carolina

The Tennessee Vols (5-3) had been playing with fire all season long. A string of huge second half comebacks, that filled a thrilling first half of the season, ended Saturday night in Columbia.

Butch Jones lost to Will Muschamp for the third time, in as many tries, in the 24-21 loss to South Carolina (4-4).

It will be an up hill climb for the Vols to win the SEC East now. Florida, winners over Georgia Saturday, will need to lose two more games for Tennessee to reach Atlanta with a 5-3 SEC record.

Here are three reasons why Tennessee’s season is over after losing at South Carolina.

Butch Jones out-coached by Will Muschamp, again

It’s inexcusable for Butch Jones to not have his team ready for this game. The Vols had an entire bye week to heal up and prepare for this Gamecocks team. Tennessee came out flat, and it looked a lot like the games against Appalachian State and Ohio. When your team is vastly more talented than the other, there’s one direction to point the finger for a sluggish start: coaching.

Will Muschamp had Butch Jones and Mike DeBord’s offense under wraps all night long. South Carolina was sitting on the zone-read runs and short passes. When Tennessee attempted to push the ball deep, it worked. Jauan Jennings made several plays down the field. Ethan Wolf even had a big catch over the middle in the third quarter. The plays Josh Malone made in the first month of the season seem to have been thrown in the trash. They don’t even try to let him make a play deep anymore.

Too many times I’ve seen quotes like this from Butch Jones after a loss:

I think these comments are ridiculous from Jones. Is there truth to it? I’m sure there is. But, he is the head coach, and they are college football players. When a team wins the players get the credit. When the team loses it’s the coach’s job to take all of the blame. I was taught that early on and I believe it on every level of football.

I had been giving Jones the benefit of the doubt on the impact of the dozens of injuries this team has counted up. Injuries happen everywhere, but not like this. To me, Tennessee’s reserves haven’t been coached up to the level they need to be at. A former SEC staff member told me that Jones’s has built his program on “recruiting you, not coaching you.” It’s showing, and that’s not a good thing.

Think about it… Name a junior, senior or a player that has been with Jones for three years who has vastly improved during his time at Tennessee?

Josh Dobbs is in a funk he can’t break out of

Tennessee’s QB has plenty of moments that prove he’s a game-changing college football player. Nothing happened Saturday. Josh Dobbs has played his two worst games in his career as the Vols starting quarterback against Alabama and South Carolina. I’ll give you the Alabama loss, but Saturday against the Gamecocks he seemed lost.

Dobbs threw two interceptions and was ineffective running the football. His second interception came at a time that felt like a dagger into the heart of Vol fans. The defense had just gotten a big stop, sacking Carolina QB Jake Bentley to force a punt. Tennessee had the chance to go take the lead with four minutes to play. On the first snap, Dobbs threw a terrible pass down the seem to Josh Smith and a Gamecock defender undercut it for the pick.

Josh Dobbs has never been a perfect passer, but he’s always been able to get enough to make big plays when Tennessee has needed it. Not tonight. His inaccuracies went to another level as he threw off target.

South Carolina’s defense wasn’t going to let Dobbs’ legs beat them tonight. Dobbs only gained 27 yards on 12 carries. Several times, the senior QB couldn’t find an open receiver and took a sack for a big loss.

Young Jake Bentley

The young South Carolina QB wasn’t perfect. He made his first SEC start of his career when he should be preparing for a playoff run in his senior year of high school. The early enrollee completed 15 of 20 passes on the night for only 167 yards, but he made the plays that were available.

Bentley’s second TD pass became the game-winner with 9:54 left in the fourth quarter. He converted key third downs multiple times to extend drives and eat the clock. His negative nine rushing yards are very misleading. On the game’s opening drive, Bentley converted a 4th and two play with his legs for a 16 yard gain. Carolina scored on that drive to get a 7-0 lead.

Bentley turns 19 in November and is very polished for a kid who should still be in high school. He showed moxie against a tough pass rush. Even though he was sacked six times, he stood strong and led his team to an upset win.

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