KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Football Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt spoke about the need to improve the team's defense during his weekly news conference on Monday following the team's loss to Georgia State in the home opener on Saturday.
Pruitt said that the Vols have a lot "of inexperience on [the defensive] side of the ball" and that the mistakes made during the game were "something that we can fix."
The Vols lost to Georgia State 38-30 in a stunning upset. Tennessee was favored by 26 points. It was Georgia State's first-ever win against a Power Five conference opponent.
In the last 60 years, Tennessee has only lost to three other non-Power 5 teams at Neyland Stadium: North Texas State in 1975, the Army in 1986 and to Wyoming in 2008.
To add insult to injury, Tennessee will have pay Georgia State $950,000 after the loss as part of an agreement it had with the team.
"Everybody in the program's got to go look in the mirror and say, 'Hey, what can I do better?'" Pruitt said during Monday's news conference.
He emphasized that since this was the first game of the season, there is plenty of room and opportunity to improve, particularly for the team's defense.
"These guys are going to continue to get better," he said.
Pruitt detailed that the team will work to eliminate mistakes moving forward and continue to practice over and over to build players' confidence.
"I believe in the guys in our locker room," he said. "I've said this all along, I really like this team.... I like their work ethic, I like their want-to."
Pruitt did say he thought several players had a great game, but that it has to be a complete team effort to make it work.
At the end of the day, he said, the team lost because it "lacks execution."
He said good football teams create the right habits and make few mistakes.
"It’s not a type of dust that you sprinkle out there," he said.
He stressed how well the team plays when it focuses on the details.
"I know everybody in this building is disappointed," Pruitt said of the loss to Georgia State. "For us, we've got to go back to work... we're young and inexperienced.. we've got a great opportunity starting today to [go back and get better]."
The Vols' upcoming game against Brigham Young University on Sept. 7 will be a "tremendous challenge," Pruitt said, since the Vols will be playing what he called a strong defensive team.