By Jimmy Hyams
It didn’t take long for Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt to break down the Vols’ humiliating 38-13 loss to Vanderbilt Saturday night in Nashville.
The synopsis: Vanderbilt broke tackles and UT didn’t. Vandy got off blocks and UT didn’t. Vandy made catches and UT didn’t.
“They played better than us today,’’ Pruitt said.
Vandy whipped the Vols in all aspects and in doing so, became bowl eligible for the second time in five years under coach Derek Mason.
The Vols dropped to 5-7, lost three in a row to Vandy for the first time since the 1920s and fell for the fifth time in seven years to a program that has no business beating UT five out of seven tries.
How bad was the beat-down? Vandy had 29 first downs to 12, outgained the Vols 467 yards to 242, controlled the clock for 43 minutes and sliced up UT’s secondary like it was in a 7-on-7 flag football game.
Vandy’s Kyle Shurmur, who looks like Drew Brees against the Vols, completed a school record 88.6 percent of his passes, going 31 of 35 for 367 yards and three touchdowns. He now has over 1,200 passing yards and 12 touchdowns against UT. If he played against the Vols in every game, he might be headed to the Heisman Trophy ceremonies in two weeks.
Tennessee has now lost six games this season by at least 25 points and lost by an average of 28.3 points in those games. UT lost just three games last year by 25 or more points in going 4-8 overall and 0-8 in the SEC.
What Vandy did to Tennessee underscored several concerns for the team: The Vols lack speed, size, strength, depth and discipline.
No wonder they had a losing record.
You might also add a lack of desire after Vanderbilt clearly displayed more want to.
I’m having a hard time believing Vanderbilt has more talent than Tennessee, but it sure looked that way.
While you could argue UT is headed in the right direction under Pruitt, the last two games – including a 50-17 loss to Missouri – would not be case in point.
Asked to assess the season, Pruitt didn’t hold back.
“I’m pretty disappointed,’’ Pruitt said. “I’m not used to losing. And I’m not used to guys not executing. I’ve got to do a better job of coaching.’’
It’s hard to explain how Tennessee could look so good in upsetting Auburn and Kentucky and play so poorly against Missouri and Vanderbilt.
One thing Pruitt said UT must do is look in the mirror.
“We’ve got to do some quality control in-house and see what we can do better,’’ Pruitt said.
Tennessee defensive lineman Shy Tuttle had a succinct reason why the Vols were blown out.
“They executed and we didn’t,’’ Tuttle said.
Tuttle said he believes the Vols are headed in the right direction, but he also hinted at a concern within the ranks – a concern perhaps about some players not giving their all.
“He (Pruitt) will get guys that want to play,’’ Tuttle said. “And if they don’t want to play, get out of here.’’