The Tennessee Vols lost 38-14 to the Florida Gators this past weekend, but the final score could’ve been much different had UT picked up a key fourth-down conversion in the third quarter.
Florida was ahead 24-14 in the third quarter when Vols head coach Josh Heupel decided to go for it on fourth-and-five. Heupel dialed up the perfect play — sophomore wide receiver Jimmy Calloway was open on a drag route and quarterback Hendon Hooker hit him with a perfect pass.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, what should’ve been six points on the scoreboard turned into a dropped pass and a turnover on downs.
The Gators scored a few plays later to extend their lead to 31-14. The dropped pass was essentially a 14 point swing in favor of Florida.
What could’ve been… pic.twitter.com/9UQ0s7wcaY
— zach ragan (@zachTNT) September 28, 2021
That’s a tough drop. And no one feels worse about it than Calloway. It’s certainly easy to see how the talented wide receiver could lose confidence because of that drop.
Heupel, however, is handling the situation as well as any head coach could.
Instead of harping on drops, Heupel is publicly showing confidence in Calloway while stressing the importance of continuing to work hard.
“Don’t let a moment define you,” said Heupel on Monday when asked about his conversations with Calloway after the game. “As you move forward, you get to define those moments. Your practice habits and how you approach everything you do ends up showing up.”
“That’s a young guy that did a lot of really positive things early in training camp,” added Heupel. “You guys heard me talk about him. Missed some time, has come back, has missed some practices. At the end of the day, when you’re on the field you have to play a little bit cleaner. Did some really positive things the other night, too.”
“The things that weren’t so positive, everybody can see. Continue to come back and be a great competitor and have great practice habits, that will lead to a successful moment when that moment arises.”
Calloway is going to help Tennessee win some games. That drop won’t define his career at UT. Heupel is publicly showing Calloway that he has his back and believes in him.
That’s the right way to handle this. Calloway needs to be confident. He’s a good player that had a bad drop in a key moment. It’s happened to countless players (including many great players in the NFL).
It’s easy to see why players like playing for Heupel — he’s a smart head coach who truly cares about his players.
Featured image via Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services