The Tennessee Vols lost to the Pittsburgh Panthers 41-34 this past Saturday in Neyland Stadium.

Any loss is tough to swallow for UT fans at this point. But the loss to Pittsburgh felt different than some of the losses over the last several years.

The Vols didn’t execute at the level needed to win the game, but Josh Heupel’s offense is clearly working.

Tennessee’s wide receivers were often open down the field on vertical routes. UT’s quarterbacks — Joe Milton and Hendon Hooker — just have to be better in their accuracy and decision making (though Hooker played fairly well in relief of an injured Milton).

Heupel’s scheme works. The potential for an explosive offense has been noticeable this year (Tennessee is averaging 36 points per game through the first two games of the year despite missed opportunities in the passing game).

Most importantly, the players believe in Heupel’s offense. They see that it’s working even though the scoreboard hasn’t truly reflected the effectiveness of Heupel’s scheme.

“Everything the coaches are coaching us on is working,” said redshirt senior tight end Princeton Fant on Tuesday. “We’ve got to continue to work as a team and work hard as a team to get open for our quarterbacks. That’s something that we will do every day and when it comes game time we will show it.”

“Dialing into what coach (offensive coordinator Alex Golesh) is really expressing to us, it’s really paying off,” added Fant.

“We’re just going to continue to work every week and come back stronger and stronger as we continue to play.”

Players buying into what coaches are teaching is an extremely important aspect of a winning program.

It’s evident that Tennessee’s players are bought in. And I think we’ll start to see the scoreboard reflect that buy-in in the coming weeks.

Featured image via Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services