No. 23 Tennessee aims to tidy up loose ends vs. UTSA

Tumbling 12 spots in the rankings on the heels of a loss at Florida, No. 23 Tennessee efforts to avoid self-inflicted wounds when it faces UTSA on Saturday afternoon in Knoxville, Tenn.

The Volunteers (2-1) were outscored 20-0 in the second quarter and lost their Southeastern Conference opener to the Gators, 29-16, despite holding a 387-349 edge in total yards.

Ten penalties, several communication errors and the game’s only turnover — the first interception of the season by Joe Milton III — offset Tennessee’s yardage advantage.

“You look at, offensively in particular, self-inflicted wounds — that can be penalties, that can be unforced errors, it can be communication — our percentage is way too high,” Volunteers coach Josh Heupel said Monday. “It was on Saturday, and it really was the week before, too. That’s why you move the ball at times, but you don’t have very many points. We got to clean that up. You can’t beat yourself.”

Tennessee was flagged for five false starts and was forced to use two timeouts in the third quarter to avoid delay-of-game penalties. The Volunteers finished 0-for-3 on fourth-down conversions, all in the second half.

“At the end of the day, we got to find a solution to it,” Heupel said. “I told the players this today, too, it’s not the big things — and those are big things, don’t get me wrong — but it’s the subtle details in everything that we’re doing. Everybody can’t take their turn of being off. We got to become a unit that plays 11 together all of the time.”

Tennessee hopes to clean things up in its first-ever meeting with UTSA before diving back into the conference slate at home against South Carolina on Sept. 30.

The Roadrunners (1-2) never had the lead in Friday’s 37-29 loss to Army in San Antonio.

UTSA starting quarterback Frank Harris missed the game with a turf toe injury, snapping a streak of 36 straight starts for a player with nearly 10,000 career passing yards.

“We’ll see how he looks,” Roadrunners coach Jeff Traylor said Monday of Harris’ availability for the Tennessee trip. “If he’s not 100 percent, he will not play.”

Backup Eddie Lee Marburger passed for 239 yards and three long touchdowns (44, 46 and 72 yards) against Army, but the Black Knights rushed for 254 yards and had a nearly 3-to-1 edge in time of possession (44:25 to 15:35).

This is the final non-conference game for UTSA, which has an open date next weekend before making its American Athletic Conference debut at Temple on Oct. 7.

Traylor said the idea of saving Harris for the conference season is not a consideration.

“That sounds great, but there’s no way you’re going to keep a kid like Frank Harris off the football field if he’s 100 percent,” Traylor said, per the San Antonio Express-News. “You never want to sit a kid that’s 100 percent just to save him for something. You have to get better.”

The Roadrunners opened the week as nearly three-touchdown underdogs at Rocky Top. For what it’s worth, UTSA lost two of its first three games last season, too, before finishing 11-3.

–Field Level Media