Vols shut out UTEP, 24-0, but raise con­cerns

UT tepid in shutout of UTEP

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID COBB STAFF WRITER

KNOXVILLE — Ten­nessee sopho­more run­ning back Ty Chan­dler buried the Univer­sity of Texas at El Paso’s chances at an up­set on Satur­day at Ney­land Sta­dium when he ran 81 yards on the first play of the sec­ond half to put the Vol­un­teers up by 17 points on their way to a 24-0 vic­tory.

“And it’s a good thing he did,” Ten­nessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said, “be­cause I’m not sure that we wouldn’t have got­ten another penalty be­fore we got into the end zone, so I’m glad he got to the end zone.”

The Vols (2-1) pitched a shutout in their fi­nal game be­fore open­ing South­east­ern Con­fer­ence play with a visit from Florida this Satur­day night, but their per­for­mance against the vis­it­ing Min­ers left Pruitt as­sess­ing his team glumly.

Ten­nessee en­tered as one of three teams in the na­tion yet to com­mit a turnover through two games. It left with two turnovers to its

name. The Vols en­tered with the fewest penalty yards in the SEC (67) and left hav­ing nearly matched that to­tal in a sin­gle af­ter­noon with eight penal­ties for 65 yards against UTEP.

While the Ten­nessee de­fense held its op­po­nent un­der 100 pass­ing yards for a sec­ond straight week af­ter al­low­ing more than 400 pass­ing yards in a sea­son-open­ing loss to West Vir­ginia, it was hard to tell if the Vols have im­proved dras­ti­cally or if their com­pe­ti­tion sim­ply was over­whelmed.

UTEP (0-3) en­tered on a 14-game los­ing streak but trailed the Vols just 3-0 at the end of the first quar­ter and 10-0 at half­time as a sun-baked crowd of 87,074 watched.

Twelve of the Min­ers’ 13 pos­ses­sions ended with punts. The ex­cep­tion came when they al­lowed the clock to run out at the end of the first half.

“We had no turnovers on de­fense, and it’s go­ing to be hard to win in the SEC mov­ing for­ward if we’re not cre­at­ing any turnovers,” Pruitt said. “We’re go­ing to have to be a team that cre­ates a bunch of turnovers. There are balls hit­ting us in the head, in the hands, and we’re go­ing to have to find guys that can play the ball and fin­ish on the ball and then get the ball off of the quar­ter­back and the run­ners.”

Ten­nessee’s two turnovers af­forded UTEP the op­por­tu­nity to keep the game close.

Fresh­man run­ning back Jeremy Banks fum­bled while reach­ing for the goal line with 13:31 left in the sec­ond quar­ter and Ten­nessee lead­ing 3-0. Of­fi­cials re­viewed the play, but the call stood, giv­ing the Min­ers the ball on their own 2-yard line with a dose of mo­men­tum.

Ten­nessee’s de­fense forced a punt, lead­ing to the Vols’ first touch­down. With Ten­nessee lead­ing 10-0 a few min­utes later, the Vols forced another three­and-out. But Marquez Callaway muffed the punt and UTEP’s T.K. Pow­ell fell on the foot­ball in Ten­nessee ter­ri­tory.

Pruitt iden­ti­fied the mis­cues and pat­tern of poor ex­e­cu­tion as the symp­tom of a poor week of prac­tice.

“Most places that I’ve been, the way you prac­tice is the way you play,” Pruitt said. “You don’t prac­tice badly on Mon­day, Tues­day, Wed­nes­day, Thurs­day, and then play well on Satur­day — that doesn’t hap­pen. We have to im­prove prac­tic­ing. We have to un­der­stand our ex­pec­ta­tions at prac­tice, and I think that will help us grow as foot­ball play­ers and as a foot­ball team. And we bet­ter, be­cause now the real sea­son starts.”

The Florida game is com­ing at a crit­i­cal point in the sea­son for the Vols, who play SEC heavy­weights Ge­or­gia, Auburn and Alabama in that or­der af­ter Florida’s visit.

Last sea­son, the Ga­tors com­pleted a 63-yard pass on the game’s fi­nal play to es­cape with a 26-20 win over Ten­nessee.

“It was def­i­nitely dis­ap­point­ing,” Ten­nessee se­nior de­fen­sive end Kyle Phillips said. “Def­i­nitely a dis­ap­point­ing game. The Ten­nessee-Florida game is al­ways a great one. We’ve just got to come in to­mor­row and pre­pare for that. We’re ex­pect­ing a good game.”

STAFF PHOTO BY ROBIN RUDD

Ten­nessee’s Ty Chan­dler (8) runs through the tackle at­tempt of UTEP’s Michael Lewis for a big gain dur­ing the Vols’ 24-0 win Satur­day at Ney­land Sta­dium. Chan­dler gained 158 yards on a dozen car­ries.

STAFF PHOTO BY ROBIN RUDD

Ten­nessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt ques­tions Matthew But­ler (94) about a rough­ing-the-passer penalty dur­ing the Vols’ shutout de­feat of UTEP on Satur­day.

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