For a little while on Saturday afternoon, it looked like the Tennessee Vols would put up 70 points against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Tennessee led 28-0 after the first quarter and 38-7 at halftime. It immediately looked like a continuation of the Vols’ 62-24 win against Missouri last weekend.
But then the third quarter happened.
And it wasn’t pretty for the Volunteers.
Tennessee put up only 25 yards of offense in the third quarter.
The Vols’ approach changed in the second half. Instead of playing with tempo, UT head coach Josh Heupel slowed things down, played conservative and allowed South Carolina to sneak back into the game.
At one point, the Gamecocks were a two-point conversion away from making it a two possession game (Vols defensive back Alontae Taylor intercepted the two-point conversion attempt).
Fans were obviously frustrated in the second half. I’d say that’s a good sign, though. Instead of being frustrated about a mind-numbing loss, fans were frustrated because Tennessee didn’t win by 40 points (UT won by a measly 25 points, 45-20).
When you consider where the program was last December, that’s a pretty good place for the Vols to be right now.
But that’s not the reason I think fans should R-E-L-A-X after Tennessee’s lackluster second half.
Look, Heupel clearly knows what he’s doing. He’s managed to turn the Vols’ offense completely around in less than a year.
Maybe Heupel was trying to keep players healthy by going conservative. Or maybe he felt that was the best way to win the game.
Whatever the case, the Volunteers put a lot of things on film in the second half that need to be addressed. And if we know anything about Heupel, it’s that he’s a coach who adapts. He knows that how Tennessee played in the second half against South Carolina isn’t going to beat Alabama or Georgia.
This Vols team is bought-in to Heupel’s approach. So when they see this on film, they’ll understand what needs to be fixed. It’s a lot better to go over these issues in a win than a loss.
Tennessee has a lot of work to do. But this is clearly a team on the rise.
The Vols will learn from their mistakes on Saturday. They’ll be better because they struggled. We’ve seen the potential of this team. The scheme works. The players believe in it.
Moving forward, they just have to keep the same intensity and approach for 60 minutes.
Featured image via Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK/Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK