Randy Smith: Pucker Up Factor Doomed The Vols Against Florida

Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
The Tennessee-Florida game last weekend was very, very tough to watch. I'm not alone because Vols' fans everywhere have spent the last 48 hours or so expressing their lament on social media. A  select few of them have called for the firing of Coach Jeremy Pruitt after just four games. I picked Tennessee to win because I actually thought they would play with enough emotion and passion to make up for any deficit in talent. I felt the young Volunteers would not fall victim to the old "pucker factor" that Coach Phillip Fulmer referred to many years ago when one of his teams would commit four-five turnovers in one half and eventually would be blown out by Florida. 

Tennessee committed zero turnovers in their first two games of the season, but in their last two games have given away the football eight times.
That doesn't count the safety the Gators got from the Volunteers and the most damaging giveaway of all is when Vols' tight end Austin Pope fumbled through the end zone as he tried to score on a pass from Jarrett Guarantano in the third quarter. The Volunteers' ineptness against the Gators was almost laughable as even the announcers on ESPN referred to the bad luck Tennessee was having against Florida.

In my opinion, it was not only a case of the Vols shooting themselves in the foot, it was more like them firing the gun several times, taking off a piece of their foot each time. An optimist might say, "Take away those turnovers and we played pretty even with them." But you can't take away those turnovers. They're part of the game and, when a team gives the ball away as many times as Tennessee did, you can't win against anybody.

It's obvious that the Volunteers' weakest position is the offensive line. The Gators' defensive front that totally dominated the Vols is good but not nearly as good as at least three or four other SEC teams. One of them will be this week when Tennessee faces second-ranked Georgia in Athens. This is especially sad when you consider the Vols have one of the top linemen in the SEC in sophomore Trey Smith.

Before the season started, six wins may have been achievable for Tennessee. The Vols have two wins, but four more will be hard to get. Another 4-8 season is very possible and, if it happens, it will be no fault of Coach Jeremy Pruitt.  Fans need to understand this. Tennessee is still at the bottom of the 14 SEC teams and it's going to take a lot of time to return to relevance in college football. If only the Vols could learn to avoid "puckering up" when they take the field.
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Randy Smith can be reached at rsmithsports@epbfi.com



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