Saturday was a huge step in the right direction for first-year head coach Butch Jones’ Tennessee football team. With their first win over a top 25 opponent since 2009 it was clear to see Saturday this “Team 117,” has made major strides towards improving the program earlier than most may have anticipated.
The Vols are now 4-3, giving them a winning record past the halfway point in the season for the first time since 2007, a year prior to what would become the debacle of the program, leaving it in the shape it is now.
While obviously pleased with his team’s victory on Saturday, Jones also saw areas for improvement.
“As we continue to move forward we must take tremendous strides this week in practice,” Jones said. “First and foremost, tackling. We had way too many missed tackles Saturday afternoon and we can’t have that happen.”
The Vols had the most trouble containing South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw on Saturday, who they allowed to scramble for 78 yards and a touchdown with him also tearing off a rush of 29 yards.
Passing wise however, Tennessee’s defense kept him in check only allowing him to throw for 161 yards on 7-of-21 passing with a touchdown. They also forced Shaw to throw his first interception of the season through seven games.
Jones was very adamant of pointing out his team’s mistakes in their victory on Saturday. He mainly accounted the Vols flaws on not executing the little things, and saying that’s what he expects them to improve upon during this week in practice.
“Just our overall fundamentals,” Jones said. “Same details, body position, hands inside, using our hands, running our feet, catching the football, little things. Those are the small details that has to get corrected to win game down the stretch as we continue to move on through the season.”
Jones also let it be known that his team has yet to perform to their full capability in his eyes.
“We haven’t even come close to playing our best football game,” Jones said. “Everyone has to take accountability in their performance, in their actions to get better this week.”
What lies ahead for the Vols will be a contest against their fifth ranked opponent this season. This time, it’s the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0). The Vols will face them on the road in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday, October 26 at 3:30 p.m. EDT on CBS.
The Vols have dropped their last six meeting against the Tide, and haven’t defeated them on the road since a five overtime thriller in 2003.
After Alabama the Vols will have two more ranked opponents scheduled back-to-back as they will travel to and undefeated No. 5 Missouri team, and welcome a No. 11 Auburn team who just upset Texas A&M on the road this past weekend.