Scott Hall's Take
Tennessee was extremely lucky to survive this game.
The Vols got manhandled upfront and Joshua Dobbs played his worst game as a Vols quarterback. Without some extremely lucky bounces on a couple fumbles this would have been a massive upset.
The defense made a nice adjustment at halftime going away from the base 4-3 defense that gave up some big plays. The nickel and an occasionally dime package pitched a second-half shutout.
Linebacker Cortez McDowell did a great job plugging in after the ejection of Jalen Reeves-Maybin.
Special teams wise the kickoff coverage continues to be a stellar unit under coach Butch Jones. It was a great start to the season for Aaron Medley. Two huge negatives here were the muffed punt by Cameron Sutton and the long punt return given up midway thru the fourth quarter.
When considering the coaching for this game it was the tale of two sides of the ball.
Defensively I would give a solid “B” because of the very good second-half adjustments, however, offensively the plan was poor and the execution was worse.
Lots of things to focus on in the coming week before the Battle at Bristol.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
Danny Parker's Take
The season opener could have gone worse for Tennessee — it could have lost.
Wise coaches from all walks of life say, “There’s no such thing as an ugly win.”
While that may be true, they probably wouldn’t take Thursday night’s 20-13 overtime victory over Appalachian State out to Golden Corral.
The No. 9/10-ranked Volunteers fumbled it four times, threw away three points with a second-quarter interception, dropped a touchdown pass and needed a fumble recovery in the end zone to get their game-winning points.
That may spell out U-G-L-Y but it also puts an X in the W column.
The offensive line got whipped much of the evening, due in part to what coach Butch Jones said was scheme and Appalachian State moving its front around to offset its lack of size. As a result, the Vols netted 3 yards per rush. Joshua Dobbs has to be smarter than the interception he hurled up in the air at the end of the first half.
The Mountaineers coaches dared Mike DeBord to dial up a 9-route and when the coordinator did, Dobbs and Josh Malone made the visitors pay with the game-tying TD on a 69-yard pitch-and-catch. It made you wonder where that had been the first 49 minutes, 30 seconds.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin’s ejection took one of the Vols’ top players and one of their four captains off the field. In a prime example of the depth that’s been built, Cortez McDowell did a solid job in the senior’s absence, registering a total of nine tackles that tied for the team lead with Darrin Kirkland Jr.
Micah Abernathy showed his worth and the work he’s put in as a safety, totaling eight tackles, including a TFL. The former Scout four-star prospect struggled at nickel in the opener a year ago but looks far more comfortable at safety.
It seemed at times like Tennessee planned to pound the football with Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara no matter the front, no matter of the struggles blocking. That resulted in a pair of likely NFL-bound runners averaging 3.85 yards per carry on 34 attempts.
Trevor Daniel stroked the football, averaging 49.2 yards per punt, including a 57-yarder and three punts downed inside the opposing 20-yard line. Aaron Medley’s made field goals (23, 39) extra points were gigantic in a game where points were hard to come by. Had no idea that the Vols planned to run two different longsnappers out there with Elijah Medford being used on kicks and Riley Lovingood on punts. Evan Berry made good decisions on kick returns and scampered 41 yards on his one manageable option.
Cameron Sutton’s fumbled punt negated a quality first series and deflated the Big Orange some early. Teams cannot afford to have those types of mistakes out of their superstars but he did atone by gathering in an athletic interception.
Appalachian State being able to run for a net of 184, including 4.3 per carry can’t happen. Of all the talent on the Vols’ defensive front, not one quarterback sack was registered.
As Jones and players said, there’s a pile of film to show what Tennessee did wrong. Now the extra two days preceding the Battle At Bristol become that much more important as they have a lot to correct before a nationally televised audience and the largest crowd to ever see American football.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-