To most people watching, the Georgia Bulldogs looked like the better team in their 27-13 beatdown of Tennessee football this past weekend in a game that wasn’t even that close. However, Vols coaches are still looking at what they did and didn’t do.
Offensive coordinator Alex Golesh and defensive coordinator Tim Banks both addressed the issues of their respective units during press conferences Tuesday. Golesh said the Vols, not Georgia, slowed themselves down on offense.
“The key part of that was in critical situations and situational football – third down, as we got tighter in the red zone we didn’t execute,” Golesh said. “I think it’s a game of execution and we did not.”
Golesh mentioned the pre-snap penalties and not executing in critical times in the red zone. He rejected the concept of Georgia laying the blueprint to stop the Vols.
However, he acknowledged that the Dawgs have good athletes. At the same time, he said that lots of teams in the league have good players.
“They played better than us on Saturday,” he said. “The environment was, at times, not handled well by us, both players and coaches.”
Clock stoppage due to injuries and the crowd noise were mentioned in Golesh’s press conference as to what slowed down the offense. The crowd noise was a shock to everybody.
However, the penalties were still the biggest point of emphasis. Tennessee football committed numerous pre-snap penalties, mostly in Georgia territory.
“I think when it’s self-inflicted, when there’s five yards that come with it, I think it’s really hard, because you’re playing, instead of 3rd and 1, now you’re playing in 3rd and 6,” he said. “Instead of 3rd and 6, you’re playing 3rd and 11. I think those situations are hard and also allows them to sub in some guys that, man, like you’d rather not play against those guys in a situation where you have to throw the football.”
On the other side, Banks said it was about the slow start by Tennessee football’s defense. After forcing a fumble on the opening drive, the Vols allowed Georgia to score touchdowns on their next four drives.
Specifically, Banks mentioned the big plays. Stetson Bennett hit Ladd McConkey on a 37-yard touchdown pass due to a busted coverage and Kenny McIntosh on a 49-yard wheel route the next drive. Those proved costly.
“Quite frankly, when you’re playing a good team, a team that’s as talented as the team we faced, you know, it’s going to be some give and some take,” he said. “We thought we were in pretty good position. Guys made plays. So, obviously, you look at the technique, the fundamentals. You look at the call. You evaluate everything to make sure you’re putting them in the best possible situation to be successful.”
Banks noted that the defense eventually settled down, and that did give the Vols a chance. They didn’t allow a touchdown all game after those three drives in the first half.
Of course, you could make the case that Kirby Smart was running as much clock as possible to keep the Vols’ offense from going off. Also, as Banks noted, they needed to start fast against Georgia.
“You want to make sure that the communication is where it needs to be, alignments, all the small details that always come back and bite you if you don’t adhere to them,” he said. “I think our kids understand that.”
Still, Banks noted that often times, the Vols were where they needed to be when it came to the big plays Georgia made. The Dawgs just happened to make the better play.
An example of that was on UGA’s first touchdown. Banks dialed up a perfect blitz, but Bennett outran Juwan Mitchell for a touchdown.
“We’ve got some resilient kids,” he said. “We have a mature bunch. We looked at those things. We looked at the alignments, the assignments, the communication part. We addressed it and now we’re moving on.”