Randy Smith: A Loss In More Ways Than One

  • Monday, September 18, 2023
  • Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
There is no doubt that the last two games for the Tennessee Volunteers have been the two worst of the Josh Heupel era. A lackluster win over Austin Peay and an absolute nightmare at the Swamp this past Saturday night has heads spinning in Big Orange country. A loss is a loss but what happened at the end of the Gators' 29-16 upset win over the Vols was much worse. Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were thrown, and so were punches. Coach Heupel even called a needless time out with just seconds remaining to force Florida to run another play to end the game.
When quarterback Graham Mertz took a knee for the final time, he was shoved to the ground by Tennessee's Omari Thomas. Mertz took exception and while flags were thrown on both teams, Tennessee's Kamal Hadden and Florida's Micah Mazzccua squared off to box each other.

Tennessee should have just allowed the clock to run out and then tucked their tails between their legs and headed to the locker room. They were whipped as badly as I've seen in a long time. They trailed 26-7 at halftime to an unranked Gator squad that as I've mentioned before has less talent than any Florida team in memory. On the Vols' first possession of the game, they marched right down the field and scored a touchdown as Joe Milton hit Ramel Keyton in the end zone capping a 71 yard drive in just two minutes. At that point, it looked as if the Gators would be in for a long night but Tennessee did not not score again before intermission and Florida would tack on 26 unanswered points to build a hug halftime advantage.

Remember last week when Tennessee's leaders called for a players' only meeting to discuss their poor performance against Austin Peay? Well it had no effect whatsoever. The Vols performance level went from lackluster to downright dismal. This was supposed to be a season where Tennessee would actually challenge for an SEC East title against two-time defending national champ Georgia. Now that prospect is very much in doubt.

Something is very wrong and I believe it starts with the Tennessee offense. A unit that was so impressive in 2022 in leading the nation in total offense now looks disoriented and totally unprepared. We all thought there would be a bit of a drop in offensive efficiency but nothing like we've seen the first three games of the season. And the biggest problem against the Gators was offensive line play. Too many penalties stopped potential scoring opportunities and while Milton was much less than perfect, receivers dropping passes added to the lack of offensive production.

However poorly the Volunteers played against the Gators was made much worse by their actions at the end of the game. It goes beyond poor sportsmanship. I anticipate the SEC will step in and hand down some punishment this week because that kind of thing should never happen just because you're butt hurt after an embarrassing loss.

So....where do the Volunteers go from here? It's still early in the season and a lot of things can happen in this crazy world of college football. But some changes must be made especially in attitude and focus. Otherwise they will be losers in more ways than one.

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Randy Smith can be reached at rsmithsports@epbfi.com
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