KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A game that was expected to be a breeze for the Vols, turned into a nightmare on Rocky Top. Tennessee came into Saturday's game as a 26-point favorite over Georgia State but the Panthers came away with a 38-30 win, the program's first-ever against a Power Five conference opponent.
“I’m disgusted to be honest. I’m not going to sugarcoat this. I’m really upset right now. Why shouldn’t we be? We lost a game. Going into the season we had high expectations and none of those expectations go away," Vols quarterback Jarrett Guarantano said.
"A lot of teams lose their first game and they go on and do so and so. We just have to go back to the drawing board and do a lot of film study, and just clean it up.”
Guarantano threw for 311 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Georgia State's offense tallied 352 total yards on Tennessee's defense and scored 38 points in Neyland Stadium. Panthers' senior quarterback Dan Ellington passed for 139 yards and threw two touchdowns against the Vols.
Ellington along with senior running back Tra Barnett and sophomore running back Seth Paige helped Georgia State's offense rack up a total of 213 rushing yards and one touchdown a piece.
"Defensively, it would be hard for me to point out anything that we really did well," Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt said.
"There were lots of times when how we lined, based on the schematic scheme that they did, we didn’t have a chance. The first thing we have to do is get lined up.”
On the flip-side of the ball, Georgia State held Tennessee to less than 100 yards rushing. The Panther defense also forced four fumbles, recovered two of them and picked off a pass.
"They don’t ask you how many stars you have when you go out there for the coin toss. They don’t get your 40 time. They don’t get your vertical jump. It’s about going and executing the fundamentals. I told our team: blocking, tackling and execution. They did all of that today. And throw in coaching too. They did everything better than we did. I’m not saying their team is better than ours; I’m saying that today, their team was. And that’s all that counts.”
Tennessee's offense was unable to get a consistent groove going for Jarrett Guarantano. The Vols rotated multiple offensive linemen and running backs into Saturday's game. The front five for Tennessee's offense struggled to keep Guaranatano protected. They gave up four sacks and allowed two quarterback hurries. Guarantano threw for 311 total yards and two touchdowns. Junior running back Ty Chandler led the team in rushing with 48 yards and one rushing touchdown.
Tennessee was held to -2 rushing yards on 11 carries in the second half.
The Vols have a lot of work to do as they prepare to welcome BYU into Knoxville next weekend for a 7 o'clock kick.