Today is Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Vols are headed in the right direction

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Joe Biddle

Tennessee's football team is on the right track.

Yes, they lost a tough 35-32 game to No. 12 Georgia. It's a hostile atmosphere between the hedges, especially when you have a freshman-sophomore dominated team like the Vols.

They held their own, despite losing senior quarterback Justin Worley for three possessions.

Worley gutted it out and returned to action. The once passive player has become a vocal, as well as a lead by example, leader on this team.

He knew it was a game they could have won. Little things here and there put the game in the Bulldogs' corner.

"We're real close," Worley said when asked how soon the Vols will learn to win close games.

"Coach (Butch Jones) says games come down to one or two plays. We had a bad exchange in the end zone and a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. That was the difference in the ball game. We were right there."

This team has lost some heartbreakers. With Florida coming to town Saturday, there is no rest for the weary.

"We don't give up," Worley said. "We've got guys like Curt (Maggitt), A.J. (Johnson), myself, and Mack Crowder on the offensive line that are leaders on this team.

"We really take ownership, we really get everyone on the same page and on board with what we are trying to do. With our youth, that's huge. Hopefully it's up from here."

Florida will be a wounded animal. Their coach, Will Muschamp, is under fire from their fan base and critics who have lost confidence he is the man for the job.

Nothing would get the Gators back on track like a win over the Vols in Neyland Stadium.

Florida is desperate, but unlike Tennessee, it is not a team with the core of the roster still learning to take baby steps.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel is a senior and would like nothing better than to spoil the Vols' weekend.

We will learn from this game just how much the Vols learned at Georgia.

Freshman running back Jalen Hurd will be playing in only his fifth college game. He made a critical mistake when he failed to secure a handoff from Worley in the Vols end zone. Georgia players fell on it, giving them a touchdown that was the difference in the game.

"(Hurd) is playing lights out," Worley said. "He is a great addition to our offense. He's explosive and when we have him picking up blocks and receiving the ball our offense goes well and that helps."

Hurd has improved every game, which is what you want to see freshmen do.

He opened against Utah State and ran only 11 times for 29 yards. Agasint Arkansas State, the former Beech star carried 23 times for 83 yards. It was against Oklahoma where Hurd gave a glimpse of the future. He popped 97 yards on only 14 carries against an experienced Sooner defense.

Georgia was Hurd's coming out party. He had 24 carries and gained 119 yards, his first of what will be many 100-yard games.

"We were just expecting that it was going to be a tough game and that we were going to come out and play hard," Hurd said.

"Now we've got to go work on our mistakes that we made going into Florida."

Contact Wilson Post Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle1@gmail.com.

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