KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Coach Jeremy Pruitt and his Tennessee football team found something to build on Saturday night.
The Vols didn’t get the win, falling to No. 3-ranked Georgia 43-14, but for one half Tennessee kept it close.
Pruitt and his players seemed to take some consolation from that.
“For a while there, it was a good back-and-forth game,” said Pruitt, whose Vols led the Bulldogs 14-13 before Georgia struck for two touchdowns in the final 2 minutes of the first half.
“We pushed them a little bit there. In the first half, they did what good teams do. They found a way to stop us right there before two minutes left in the half. We missed a field goal, and then we didn’t keep them out of the end zones, so they score with nine seconds.”
Pruitt gave true freshman QB Brian Maurer his first career start. The Florida prep product responded with a 14-of-28 passing performance for 259 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with an interception.
Many felt Tennessee played its best football of the season in the first half.
“For us, the scoreboard doesn’t depict how we feel, obviously,” Tennessee tight end Austin Pope said. “Definitely in the first half, we had the lead and we were pounding the ball. We were making really good plays, so I thought it was, overall, a really good game.
“Then, in the second half we came out and made a ton of mistakes to shoot ourselves in the foot. We’ve got to go back and correct those things.”
Pruitt concluded this season’s version of Georgia football is better than what he saw in Athens in 2018.
“I think this Georgia team is probably a little better than the one this time last year.,” Pruitt said. “I think our football team is better than last year at this time too.
“We had just a couple of hiccups, and with their quarterback, he is not going to miss them. He is going to take advantage of it. They did that.”
Georgia QB Jake Fromm was 24-of-29 passing for 288 yards and two touchdowns with no sacks.
Pruitt said it’s hard getting to Fromm.
“This is the third time I have coached against Jake Fromm, and it is hard to fool him,” Pruitt said. “Normally he keeps a clock in his head, in my opinion, and it’s boom, boom, boom. If it’s not there, he will throw the ball away.”
Pruitt also gave an example of how well Fromm is able to read defenses and adjust on the fly.
“Sometimes, when you are playing against a guy like this, you have to call the game backwards to give yourself an opportunity, or you’ve got to get up there and guard them,” Pruitt said. “One time we got up there and guarded them, and they threw a 65-yard corner route. So, if you are going to bring pressure and create one-on-ones, then you’ve got to win one-on-ones
“We didn’t win very many one-on-ones tonight.”
Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt
(Vince Ferrar video)