CORY GUNKEL'S TAKE
This game could really be described as "bleh." It was like taking an ambien for your eyelids. But as Butch Jones said in his post-game presser, there is no 'U' next to the 'W' to indicate an ugly win, and the Vols will gladly take a double digit shutout to become bowl eligible for the second consecutive season.
Tennessee's offense sleepwalked through most of this one and it showed in the inaccuracy of quarterback Josh Dobbs and the general malaise surrounding that side of the ball. Jones said he thought the team pressed too much knowing everyone (including themselves) expected this game to be a bloodbath. Despite racking up more than 400 yards of total offense, the Vols managed just 24 points — the lowest amount of points a team has scored against North Texas in a win this season. If it weren't for Alvin Kamara's productive day on the ground (114 yards and two scores), who knows what could have happened. Josh Dobbs looked inaccurate for a majority of the day, and Butch Jones wasn't able to get his backups on the field quick enough for what I would have liked as a head coach, and overall the offense slugged through this one.
The defense, on the other hand, came to play. The Vols held North Texas to under 200 total yards and pitched a shutout for the first time since Jones' first year in Knoxville. The starters played on D for almost all of the game and didn't allow the Mean Green to really do anything inside its own 20 yard line. Darrin Kirkland notched eight total tackles to lead the team and Derek Barnett upped his sack streak to five consecutive games. The defense did everything it was asked of them to do against an overmatched UNT unit.
Trevor Daniel had a punt blocked, but that was the only blemish in an otherwise quiet special teams performance. Aaron Medley knocked in his only field goal attempt and Evan Berry didn't get the chance to take one back. As the day slowly progressed inside Neyland Stadium, Tennessee finished the job, held North Texas to 0 points and became bowl eligible all before 5 p.m. The next two games will define the season.
Special teams: A
DANNY PARKER'S TAKE
It most definitely didn't go as planned but a victory, bowl eligibility and a shutout is plenty to be thankful for as Tennessee turned away North Texas at the smallest Neyland Stadium crowd of 2015.
Butch Jones complimented the Mean Green game plan and that's hard to argue but a multi-million dollar coaching staff in the Southeastern Conference should be able to outscheme the heck out of a one-win team like North Texas.
Joshua Dobbs and the offensive front played below-average football. That's not going to get it. The final two opponents — Missouri and Vanderbilt — own two of the better defenses in the SEC and they'll drink blood from the Vols all night long if Tennessee plays like that against them.
Alvin Kamara showed his worth, average 8.5 yards per carry on 15 attempts. He's an explosive back and should be a matchup issue for nearly every team in the nation.
Tennessee's defense held its visitors to a net of 2.9 yards per attempt and forced 13 incomplete passes in 25 attempts. Both quality numbers. Would expect to see more takeaways against a team like North Texas but a goose egg and less than 200 total yards is impressive. Darrin Kirkland's instincts continue to improve and he led the way with eight tackles (five solo).
Jones mentioned how he pondered giving Quinten Dormady the final drive of the first half. Wish he had. That could have been quite the learning tool for the freshman quarterback.
Overall, just expected so much more out of Tennessee. It should have been a four-score game within the first 20 minutes of game time. But the Orange & White got some things accomplished and it's on to Columbia.
That figures to be an interesting trip.
Special teams: A-
JOSH WOODWARD'S TAKE
After the tough schedule Tennessee has played, I can understand not being up for North Texas. Plus, this win gets you in a bowl game. Now is the time to get back to work and focus on Missouri, because the way they played today, Missouri and Vanderbilt will beat you. The great thing is, if you win the next two, the Vols are likely back in Florida for a bowl game. I'm all for that.
Offensively, it was bland and boring, but Tennessee still had 409 yards of offense. Also, you left the game not getting anyone hurt and hopefully can get some bruises healed before Missouri. I thought Alvin Kamara ran the ball extremely well and needs to touch the ball more and more. Josh Smith and Josh Malone continue to impress at receiver.
Defensively, they did what they had to do and held North Texas to zero points. I really like how middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland is getting better at linebacker. I think he's going to be a stud. You could see this team not letting the next two opponents score either, so it could be an impressive couple of weeks for this defense.
Special teams was not that great today. Trevor Daniel had a punt tipped by a single rusher and punt returns weren't that great. The one bright spot was the fake punt that Chris Weatherd stayed at home and snuffed out.