JOE BIDDLE: Butch’s last stand?

(AP Photo/Wade Payne)

The prevailing opinion in a majority of Tennessee fans before the South Carolina game was that Butch Jones had to beat the Gamecocks to keep his job.

Of course no one involved in making that decision on the Hill would admit that in public.

Will losing 15-9 on a last play Saturday be enough to save him? It’s not like South Carolina is a ranked team. Producing three field goals and no touchdowns in Neyland Stadium is not a feather in Butch’s cap.

It was the Vols third straight SEC loss, dropping the overall record to 3-3. The most important SEC record of 0-3 doesn’t cut it, not in this conference, especially not in the SEC East.

Meeting top-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa next Saturday is problematic for the Vols no matter who plays quarterback.

It was 9-3 at halftime and Tennessee’s record of scoring touchdowns is not acceptable.

The Vols were defeated at the hands of South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley and the feet of placekicker Parker White, a redshirt freshman.

In the second half, Bentley led a 72-yard touchdown drive in 9 minutes, 18 seconds in the second half. It turned out to be the game winner as the Vols struggled to make key defensive plays when the heat was on.

The Vols saw their best wide receiver Marquez Callaway limited to four catches for 37 yards. Top running back John Kelly was held to 58 yards on 14 carries and freshman running back Ty Chandler added 45 yards on four plays.

Chandler caught one pass for 11 yards while Kelly caught two passes for 21 yards.

“We didn’t have many big plays,’’ Jones understated. “Against that defense or any defense you need big splash plays and we weren’t able to generate any. We’ve just got to keep working.’’

Even though Butch has had top 10 recruiting classes, I don’t see a Willie Gault. No Jason Witten, no Tee Martin, no Al Wilson, no Travis Stephens or Joey Kent.

“There was a number of times we had some things, but then we broke down in protection and were not able to throw the football,’’ Jones added. “There was a number of times on the headsets where a guy was wide open and we weren’t able to get him the football.’’

The Vols converted only 3 of 13 third down plays. On the other hand, South Carolina was only five on 13 third downs. Tennessee had a season high 8 penalties that ate up 59 yards. The Vols failed to score in the second half while South Carolina posted 12 second half points. That was the difference.

Butch’s decision to start redshirt QB Jarrett Guarantano proved to be up for debate. He looked better in this must win game than Quinten Dormady did in the first five games.

Just like Butch kept Josh Dobbs on the bench because he didn’t like the way Dobbs practiced. The Pittsburgh Steelers saw enough to draft Dobbs.

The Crimson Tide is waiting. It will be a game to tell just how far away the Vols program under Butch Jones is.

Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at joebiddle11@gmail.com.