Tennessee football: 4 takeaways from win over South Carolina

Tennessee football kept its winning streak alive this past weekend as the Volunteers defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks in a close game 31-27. Yes, the seven-game winning streak is excellent for the Vols’ momentum, but the victory does not change the fact that the Vols did not play a solid game start to finish. With that said, let’s check out four key takeaways from the weekend.

Offense needs to communicate better

Veteran quarterback Jarrett Guarantano threw for 259 yards with no interceptions. He completed 19 of 31 passes, but the number of times he overthrew his receivers was unacceptable. The miscommunication was evident early in the game for the offense, especially after missed passes and over/underthrown passes. These miscommunications often placed the Vols’ offense in third down situations, which the Vols were 1-for-11 on. If the offense tightens up the communication, we will see better chemistry between the QB and receivers, resulting in more completed passes and first downs.

Henry To’o To’o is the Real Deal

Sophomore inside linebacker Henry To’o To’o proved his worth to Tennessee football. If anyone questioned his role as a leader, they received their answer this past weekend. He kept the Vols’ defense tight all game. The sophomore lost 15 pounds for this season, making him lighter on his feet, stronger and faster. His speed showed when he had the first interception of the night and ran it back for a touchdown. His pick-six changed the momentum of the game and gave Tennessee the lead early in the second quarter.

Shi Smith is South Carolina’s offense

Shi Smith was a force to be reckoned with against the Vols, as he carried the whole offense on his back. The wide receiver caught 10 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted 14 times by the young quarterback Colin Hill, which came out to be around 35% of South Carolina’s targeted passes. Smith scored a touchdown early in the second half to put the Gamecocks down by a touchdown, but the team couldn’t quite pull off the victory. Smith will be South Carolina’s go-to man all season, especially with the lack of receivers being used in the rotation. I predict a great season for this wide receiver, especially if his young QB keeps targeting him.

Coach Pruitt “tickled to death” over the win

Yes. You read that correctly. Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt was tickled to death over the win. After his team’s victory, he was asked how he felt about the win, and he responded,

“But I’m tickled to death that we won. We wanted to find a way, and I’m proud of our team and our coaches and everybody in our organization for the fight and resiliency that they showed tonight.”

Pruitt also explained he wants the offense to be more physical and aggressive in the game and wants the defense to create more turnovers and get off the field on third downs. Overall, he seemed optimistic both during and after the game.