Tennessee shut out UTEP, 24-0 on Saturday. It marked the Vols first shutout of an FBS opponent since 2015.
But in Jeremy Pruitt's mind it wasn't enough.
"When you say 24 points, it's not where we want to be. Absolutely not," Pruitt said in his post-game press conference.
Tennessee moved the ball on offense, totaling 512 yards, its highest output since the Music City Bowl in 2016 but miscues prevented the Vols from reaching the endzone more frequently.
Eight penalties, including a personal foul that negated a touchdown, and a fumble on the goal line kept points off the board for the Vols against a UTEP team that had allowed an average of 41 points per game this season (121st in the country), including 30 points to FCS Northern Arizona. The Miners have the nation's longest losing streak, now at 15 games.
Pruitt didn't like the way the Vols practiced all week and that translated to the game.
"Most places that I’ve been, the way you practice is the way you play," Pruitt said. "You don’t practice badly on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then play well on Saturday; that doesn’t happen. We have to improve practicing. We have to understand our expectations at practice, and I think that will help us grow as football players and as a football team. And we better, because now the real season starts.”
SEC play starts Saturday when Florida comes to Knoxville for a night game. A gauntlet of three top-ten teams follows.
Are the Vols ready for conference play?
“I don’t know, you don’t really have a choice in that" Pruitt said. "I would hope we’re ready. If you come to Tennessee, you came to play in the SEC, so I would hope they’re ready to play in the SEC. Are we ready as a football team? When you turn the ball over two times and don’t get any turnovers, make eight penalties – probably 10 if you count the ones they declined – it would be hard to beat anybody in the SEC playing like that.”
Tennessee has lost nine straight SEC games but that was before Pruitt and staff arrived on Rocky Top.
The Gators are on a six-game SEC losing streak but also have a new coaching staff with Dan Mullen taking over in Gainesville. He dropped his first SEC game as Florida head coach, 27-16 to Kentucky, the Gators first loss to the Wildcats since 1986.
Tennessee and Florida have split their six all-time night game meetings at Neyland Stadium.