The Tennessee Vols played their worst game of the season this past weekend

Tennessee’s performance in their 27-13 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs was lackluster, to put it bluntly. It was the first time this season we’ve seen the Vols out of sorts and not in full control of the game.

So what went wrong for the Vols? Why was their offense shut down? Is it all fixable? Can Tennessee beat Georgia if they play again?

Those are the biggest questions after the Vols’ first loss of the season.

Here are the four biggest reasons Tennessee lost to Georgia and whether or not those issues are fixable for the Vols moving forward.

Tennessee Vols
Nov 5, 2022; Athens, Georgia, USA; Tennessee Volunteers running back Jaylen Wright (20) reacts as he is hit by Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Smael Mondon Jr. (2) during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Pre-snap penalties

This was easily one of the biggest issues for the Vols against the Bulldogs.

Tennessee had nine penalties for 55 yards. Most of those penalties were pre-snap penalties that led to the Vols immediately starting drives behind the chains.

The biggest reason for this was the crowd noise at Sanford Stadium. This was the loudest environment the Vols have played in and they didn’t handle the noise very well (something Josh Heupel admitted after the game).

Fortunately for Tennessee, they won’t play in another environment like this the rest of the season (South Carolina will be a good environment, but it won’t compare to what the Vols saw in Athens).

I don’t think this will be an issue for Tennessee moving forward. Partially because this experience will help them and partially because they won’t face it again this season.

Pressure on Hendon Hooker

I said before the game that the biggest thing the Vols needed to do to win was to protect Hendon Hooker. That’s the big secret to beating Tennessee — get pressure on the quarterback and the Vols aren’t quite as scary.

Tennessee’s offensive line has been a bright spot this season. And they had some good moments against Georgia. The Bulldogs, however, were able to consistently win in the trenches, which limited Hooker’s time to find receivers downfield.

I don’t think this will be a big issue for the Vols moving forward because of how well Tennessee’s offensive line has played this year. It could be an issue, however, if Tennessee faces Georgia in the playoff.

Overthrows from Hendon Hooker

This is one thing that I don’t think people realize from this game — Tennessee had guys open down the field.

Several times.

Hooker was just off a bit on Saturday and didn’t make a perfect throw.

That throw to Jalin Hyatt has been a touchdown for most of the season.

Bru McCoy didn’t have quite enough speed to catch up to this throw in the fourth quarter.

Everyone has an off day and that’s what happened to Hooker against the Bulldogs. His body of work is impressive enough that I don’t think Tennessee fans should suddenly start worrying about the quarterback position. Hooker will make those throws next time.

The encouraging thing here is that Georgia didn’t shut down the Vols’ scheme. It was an execution problem by Tennessee and nothing more.

Great tackling by Georgia’s defenders

This is one that was out of the Vols’ control. But it was a big reason why they lost.

Watching Georgia tackle was like watching an NFL team tackle. Anytime Tennessee got players in space, a Georgia defender was there immediately to make a sound tackle. That’s why a lot of those guys will be playing on Sundays.

In other games, those plays are big gains for the Vols. But against Georgia, they went for three or four yards (or less).

There’s really nothing Tennessee can do about this. The Vols will continue to recruit better athletes that can compete with the Bulldogs. But for now, Georgia’s just got the dudes on defense that can make those open field tackles.

Featured image via Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

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