Jones: Vols wanted Georgia to burn timeouts on penultimate possession

UT coach Butch Jones talks to an official during the game against Appalachian State Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016 in Neyland Stadium.

KNOXVILLE - Much as it did four times last season, Tennessee's inability to close out a football game on offense nearly cost the Volunteers a win at Georgia last Saturday.

The craziness of two long touchdown passes in the final 19 seconds never would have happened if Tennessee had picked up a first down or two after Malik Foreman's interception with 2:10 remaining, but the Vols instead ran three straight times and punted after burning only 63 seconds.

On Monday, Tennessee coach Butch Jones explained the thought process in that situation.

"You're also looking at how many timeouts a team has and how many first downs do you need to close the game out," Jones said. "You have to assess on the sideline what's more important. Do you want them to burn their timeouts? Field position comes into play. Where is the ball at?

"I think the dynamics of the game come into play. Have you been stopping them? What is it going to take to close the game out? For us, in this particular game - and it may be different this week and it may be different the following week - is we wanted to run the clock and make them burn their timeouts."

Georgia played with six defensive linemen and put three more defenders in the box to defend Tennessee's two-tight-end set, and the Bulldogs held Alvin Kamara to 4 yards on three running plays.

Jones said Tennessee considered throwing deep with man-to-man coverage on the outside.

"If you have an incomplete pass, say on third down, it stops the clock and now they're sitting there with two timeouts left as opposed to one," he said. "The difference between having two timeouts and one timeout is monumental. We made a decision we knew they'd call time out and burn their timeouts. That was what we wanted to do."

Tennessee's offense failed to close games out on offense four times, including the losses to Oklahoma and Florida, in 2015.

"There's got to be that will to close the game out," Jones said. "That's one of the many things I was disappointed in. You get the ball, you're on the road or at home, you have to close the game out."

Kickoff clarification

On Evan Berry's 20-yard kickoff return that put Tennessee in position for the winning Hail Mary, Jones said the Vols used a return they've practiced every week in practice for three years but had never used until Saturday.

"It was not our hands team," Jones said. "It was comprised of a lot of skill players on the field, but it is not a hands team. It's not a hands return. It's a different type of return anticipating different types of kicks so you can adapt and adjust to it at the end of the game.

"I thought (running backs coach) Robert Gillespie did a great job, because we did have some individuals down, and we were ready to go with that and it gave us an opportunity to win the football game."

Long-snapper love

Rarely do long-snappers receive conference player of the week honors, but Tennessee's Riley Lovingood got the nod from the SEC on Monday as the co-special teams player of the week, mostly because his over-the-shoulder catch of a punt inside Georgia's 5-yard line set up a sack-fumble for a defensive touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Jones called it "one of the best plays I've seen all year," but Lovingood wasn't so sure at the time.

"That's my first time ever downing a ball," Lovingood said. "I caught it and I looked up and I saw Evan Berry jumping up and down. Everyone started hitting me, and I thought I guess I did a good job right here.'

"I wasn't sure if he was going to get mad at me for downing the ball on the 3. I didn't know if he wanted the ball on the 1. I was like, 'Did I mess up?' Now that I think about it, I did the right play."

Knight time (again)

Tennessee and Texas A&M are meeting for the first time ever in the regular season, but this won't be the first time the Vols and Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight face off.

In 2014 Knight was at Oklahoma and threw for 308 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score as the Sooners won 34-10, and he was the backup to Baker Mayfield when the Sooners won in Knoxville last season.

Knight joined the Aggies this offseason as a graduate transfer and is averaging 252 passing yards per game with seven touchdowns and three interceptions while also rushing for 392 yards and six scores.

"We thought he was a very talented quarterback back then, but he's playing with a lot of confidence and playing winning football," Jones said. "A lot of times the quarterback is a byproduct of individuals around him, and they've done a great job in (recruiting). There's skill everywhere. You can spit out a quick screen and it has a chance to go 80 or 90 (yards)."

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