Tennessee redshirt senior wide receiver Jauan Jennings has heard the outside noise.
It didn’t take long for the opinions to come out following the Vols historic 38-30 loss to heavy underdog Georgia State on Saturday, and rightfully so.
Tennessee came into their season opener as 25-point favorites, hoping to get the 2019 season off on the right foot with a shroud of optimism surrounding the program.
They ended up walking off of their home turf with more questions than answers, as did the fans, who left the Neyland Stadium concourses perplexed. Jennings knows it. He just has to try and block it out and move forward with at least 11 more games on the schedule.
“It’s definitely blocked out,” Jennings said of the negativity currently surrounding the program. “There’s no way I couldn’t see it because we have such a big fan base. Me, as a leader, we did let our Vol fans down this weekend and we’re going to continue to get better.
“We’re just going to have to hope they have our backs through it all.”
Jennings was one of the few bright spots for the Vols in the loss. The Murfreesboro native had seven completions for 108 yards and a touchdown, with many of those yards being tallied after contact.
Despite those efforts, Jennings put the loss on his own shoulders, citing that his role as one of the team’s vocal leaders should make him at least party responsible, whatever the real reasons are.
“I feel like this team wasn’t juiced up on the sideline,” Jennings said. “As a leader, I take full responsibility for that. I’ve got to be out there, and I’ve got to be in their heads, in their ears 24/7. As a leader, I admit I did not do that.”
While the program has shifted their focus to their next opponent, BYU, Jennings isn’t going to let one loss define his or his team’s season. For Tennessee, it is one game at a time from here on out.
“I didn’t sign up for a one game fight,” Jennings said. “This is a 12-game fight. That’s what we’re going to do each and every week from here on out. That’s all we’ve got to do, prepare and focus for one game at a time.”
Fellow redshirt senior Brandon Kennedy shared those sentiments, stating that the Vols have prepared to take the lessons from defeat and apply them to a BYU team that is more than capable of winning this Saturday.
“I think the response was that we just learn from our mistakes,” Kennedy said. “See what we did wrong, and we move on to BYU as we prepare for them.”
Getting prepared for BYU, says Kennedy, begins with getting back to the basics of the game, something Tennessee seemed to struggle with on all fronts against Georgia State, particularly along the offensive line where the group gave up four sacks and a slew of other tackles to the Panthers defense.
“I think it is great to have different people rotate in (on the offensive line),” Kennedy said. “We just need to go out and play clean. If we can play clean and eliminate mistakes, then we will be able to win a football game.”
The response remains to be seen. The results will have to speak for themselves late Saturday at Neyland Stadium, but junior defensive back Theo Jackson believes that the Vols’ goals are more clear following a Sunday meeting less than 24 hours after their humiliating defeat.
“It was a very disappointing loss,” Jackson said. “But at a time like this, we all came together that Sunday and met without coaches to go over what we need to do to get better for the future and not let this happen again.”