The headlines in Knoxville told the story after Tennessee dropped to 0-2 for the first time in 31 seasons with both losses coming at home.
“Are Vols simply too accustomed to losing?”
And this: “Can Jeremy Pruitt last past October?”
There are many questions, and most surround coach Jeremy Pruitt, after the stunning opening loss to Georgia State was followed by a deflating late collapse against Brigham Young on Saturday.
“First of all, we had a lot of guys at fault,” Pruitt said after his two-year record fell to 5-9. “A lot of guys at fault. They played really, really hard. But the bottom line is that there are a couple of errors that we made in the game that you can’t do.”
The good news — maybe — is that Chattanooga is the next opponent, at home, before Tennessee faces Florida, Georgia and Alabama in the span of four games. The Vols lost to those teams by no fewer than 26 points last season.
They seemed to be in good shape in the closing minute against BYU on Saturday as they clung to a 16-13 lead. But the Cougars went 68 yards in five plays to set up a game-tying field goal with one second left.
But it was one play that everyone was talking about after BYU emerged with a 29-26 win in two overtimes. The Cougars were at their own 20-yard with a third down when quarterback Zach Wilson connected with Micah Simon for a 64-yard pass that allowed just enough time for BYU to spike the ball and kick a field goal.
“Well, there’s 17 seconds left on the clock,” Pruitt said. “They have no timeouts. They have to go 60 yards to kick a field goal, or at least 40. So they can play three plays. So you play on top of them. (It was) the same defense that we called the previous plays when they lost 12 yards.”
The loss started all kinds of fan analysis, including the ongoing rumor about former Vols coach and current athletics director Phil Fulmer taking over for Pruitt. It has been reported that Pruitt’s second-season buyout would cost the university $11.7 million.
Pruitt said after the loss to Georgia State that he might need to turn to more freshmen, given the performance of some experienced players. He started three freshmen in the opener but talked specifically about defensive players Quavaris Crouch and Roman Harrison receiving a chance to play.
Young or old, the fans just want wins.
“It’s hard, but we have got 10 more games left,” running back Ty Chandler said. “We have to keep going and as a team we have to keep it up. We have to work even harder this week.”
Stuffing the run
Michigan State wasn’t quite as good stopping the run against Western Michigan as it was in the season opener against Tulsa. But the Spartans have some impressive numbers on defense through two games when it comes to stuffing opposing ball carriers.
After setting a school record by holding Tulsa to minus-73 yards rushing, Michigan State held Western Michigan to 67. The Spartans lead the country after two weeks, limiting opponents to minus-0.12 yards per carry.
“We have a good front four. Our defensive tackles are very solid as well as our linebackers,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “We fit the run scheme and our players understand how they fit. Our coaches understand how they fit it, so when there is a problem, they are able to fix that very quickly.”
USC freshman steps up
Southern California lost starting quarterback JT Daniels in its season opener but apparently has a pretty good backup in freshman Kedon Slovis. In his first start, Slovis completed 28 of 33 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns as the Trojans rolled past Stanford 45-20.
He might be a quarterback St. Louis fans want to follow. Slovis was coached by Kurt Warner as a high schooler in Arizona. Warner tweeted while in flight Saturday that he was following the game via audio.
Slovis established a record for the most passing yards by a true freshman in his first start for USC and was the first quarterback at the school to throw two touchdown passes in his first start.
Blake Anderson returned to coach Arkansas State in its win at Nevada-Las Vegas on Saturday after taking an extended leave of absence to be with his wife, who died of breast cancer during his departure.
The university reported that Anderson made his presence known to the team at a meeting before players traveled to the stadium. A video clip shows him entering from the rear of the room to wild applause. The Red Wolves then routed the Rebels 43-17.
“There was a lot of emotions wrapped up into (the day) with me not telling them I was coming back,” Anderson said. “Their reaction was a big spark and I liked the way they handled things emotionally, especially with how hard it is to compete on the road.”