Tennessee’s hopes for a bounce-back win against BYU on Saturday night were thwarted by a defensive breakdown with less than a minute to go that led to a double-overtime loss to the Cougars at Neyland Stadium. Although there was some improvement for the Volunteers over the previous week’s loss to Sun Belt Conference bottom feeder Georgia State, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano struggled for a second straight week.
The Down Field Stats team analyzed Guarantano’s game against BYU, charting all 28 of his pass attempts to determine how effective the redshirt junior quarterback was.
Guarantano finished the game 17 for 28 passing (60.7%) for 176 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception, compiling a quarterback rating of 129.9. That’s down almost 12 points from his Georgia State rating of 141.8.
If you remove the two overtimes from Guarantano’s quarterback rating (3 for 6 passing for 27 yards and a touchdown), he ends up with a rating of 126.4 — relatively unchanged from his overall performance.
It’s worth noting that Guarantano posted a quarterback rating of 124.7 against Georgia State after a garbage time touchdown drive with under a minute to go in the game was removed.
His combined quarterback rating for the first two games of the season is 136.9 (43 for 68, 487 yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
In August, the DFS team analyzed Guarantano’s 2018 campaign. He finished the year with a 62.2% completion percentage — right in line with his 60.7% completion rating from the BYU game.
However, Guarantano threw 104 of his 246 pass attempts (42.3%) in 2018 either behind the line of scrimmage or within four yards of the line. He completed 78 of these passes (75.0%). [Note that these numbers calculate pass distance from where the ball is caught and do not include any yards after catch]
Pass Result by Distance
Guarantano threw 42.9% of his passes either behind or within four yards of the line of scrimmage (12 out of 28), which is similar to his Georgia State performance (40%) and his 2018 average (42.3%). However his completion percentage on these short throws decreased from 81.2% against Georgia State to only 66.7% against BYU.
His midrange passing game (Throws from 5 to 19 yards of the line of scrimmage) was identical to the short passing game. He threw 12 of 28 passes in this distance (42.9%) and completed 8 of them (66.7%). Interestingly enough, that 66.7% completion percentage is identical to his completion percentage on the same intermediate throws against Georgia State.
On throws of 20+ yards, Guarantano struggled mightily against BYU. Of the four long balls he threw on Saturday, he only completed one of them (20-24 yards) — a strike to Jauan Jennings down the middle of the field in the first quarter.
Two of the other long throws were thrown poorly, including an overthrow to Josh Palmer, who found his way behind the defense and would have scored easily. A third pass intended for Jennings was broken up by a BYU defender because Guarantano threw too late, allowing the defender to recover and make a play on the ball.
Spreading the Field
Guarantano favored the left side of the field heavily against against BYU. He threw 14 of 28 passes (50%) from the left hash to the sideline, versus 25% down the middle and 25% to the right has. Compare this 45% of throws to the left hash against Georgia State.
Third Down Woes
Guarantano completed 8 of 11 passes on third down (72.3%) — pretty solid. However, only three of those completions resulted in a first down or touchdown (37.5%). On the other five completed passes, the receiver wasn’t able to gain the first down line.
Of the three incompletions on third down, one was forced into double coverage targeting Jennings. The other was a deep ball thrown poorly to tailback Ty Chandler. The third was intercepted when Guarantano tried to throw into triple coverage, setting up a BYU touchdown in the third quarter.
Guarantano performed much better in the first half, completing 10 of 13 passes (76.9%). He only attempted eight throws in the third quarter, completing four of them (50%). He was 0-1 in the fourth quarter and 3 for 6 in overtime (50%).
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney called play action on 20 of Guarantano’s 17 passes (60.7 percent). After faking the run, Guarantano completed only 52.9 percent of his passes. Compare that to a 72.7% completion rate (8 for 11) on straight pass plays.
The Vols used play action to set up two deep throws (30+ yards), both incomplete.
Against the Blitz
BYU didn’t blitz nearly as much as Georgia State did. They only brought an extra defender on 8 of 20 plays (28.6 percent) versus Georgia State, who blitzed on 22 of 40 pass plays (55%).
Guarantano’s completion percentage was nearly identical regardless of the pressure — 62.5% against the blitz versus 60% with no pressure.
On 15 of the Vols 28 passes, the Vols had a running back and four wide receivers on the field (01 personnel – no tight ends). Guarantano was 10 for 15 (66.7%) in this formation. Eight passes were thrown in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end and three receivers). Guarantano was 5 for 8 in this formation (62.5%).
Once again, Jennings was Guarantano’s preferred receiver. Jennings was targeted on 6 of 28 throws (21.4 percent), hauling in four catches. The other two throws were broken up — one on a late throw, the other into double coverage. It’s worth noting that one of Jennings’ six catches came on a first quarter touchdown that was nearly intercepted before it took a fortuitous bounce into the receiver’s arms.
Much to the dismay of Tennessee fans, Guarantano seems to have regressed from his sophomore to his junior season. Once again, he appeared to stare down his intended targets, or miss wide open receivers, opting instead to dump the ball off to a checkdown receiver.
The team’s 0-2 start, coupled with poor quarterback play, has many fans calling for backup quarterbacks Brian Mauer, a three-star freshman from Florida, or J.T. Shrout, a three-star redshirt freshman from California.
Only time will tell what second-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt will do with his quarterbacks. Based on the stats, though, Guarantano needs to be more consistent with his downfield reads if the Vols hope to salvage anything out of their 2019 season.
We’ll have a full breakdown of Guarantano’s performance against the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga next week.