IT's Take: Plenty of positives in Vols homecoming

Good or bad, the InsideTennessee staff gives its thoughts on Tennessee football yet again. Here's what we said after the Vols pummeled Tennessee Tech 55-0.

The staff at InsideTennessee weighed in with grades, opinions and thoughts on Tennessee's 55-0 victory over Tennessee Tech on Rocky Top on Saturday.

Reed Emerson’s take

Tennessee’s 55-0 trouncing of Tennessee Tech was a step back in the right direction for the Orange & White.

A week after a devastating loss to South Carolina — and despite a drama-filled week — the Vols find themselves back in the win column after a 55-0 trouncing of Tennessee Tech.

The Vols got off to a good start on both sides of the ball, especially offensively where it only took them six snaps to jump out to a 14-0 lead. The tempo and the entire feel of the game felt different from the start.

After the news of starting running back Jalen Hurd’s transferring earlier in the week, the run game showed no signs of weakness in his absence. Sophomore John Kelly had a big day on the ground, including a 73-yard run, which was the longest of his career. Kelly finished the day with seven carries and 104 yards on the ground. While freshman Carlin Fils-Aime saw his first collegiate touchdown come midway through the second quarter, he ended up adding another score later in the game to cap off his best game as a Vol.

Joshua Dobbs had a bounce-back game after struggling a week ago. Dobbs was 12-of-13 for 183 yards and three touchdowns, including a beautiful 43-yard strike to Josh Malone on Tennessee’s second possession. Dobbs’ day didn’t last long though, which is a good indicator of the direction of where the night was headed.

Sophomore Quentin Dormady replaced Dobbs under center with around five minutes to go before the half. Dormady looked good at times, and not so good at other times. It seemed as if though he felt the pressure, which in some cases wasn’t even there. But it was an overall productive day for the former Scout four-star prospect, who finished 9 of 13 with 109 yards in the air.

One of the biggest positives from this game is the amount of repetitions that many guys received, which they desperately needed. Brandon Johnson looked like the kid many heard about all fall camp, catching five passes for 64 yards in by far his most productive outing.

When Evan Berry got shaken up, the safety spot showed no drop-off with freshman Nigel Warrior stepping in. Warrior showed great closing speed and racked up a team-leading seven tackles and was all over the field. Jonathan Kongbo also saw his most significant amount of snaps. Though the stat sheet only shows one tackle, Kongbo was in on many plays and was within fingertips reach of a sack a few times. Freshman Marquez Callaway capped off the night with a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown in what also turned out to be a productive night. Callaway also added his first catch as a Vol.

The defense overall had a good night and pitched its first shutout in the Bob Shoop era. This is also the first shutout since the North Texas game almost a calendar year ago.

Grades

Offense: B +

Defense: A –

Special teams: A

Scott Hall’s take

This game was exactly what Tennessee needed at this time. It's hard to think there was anything else that this team wanted to get out of Saturday.

The No. 1 thing that needed to happen was to get Vols quarterback Joshua Dobbs into rhythm and to get some confidence back. The senior didn't disappoint as he completed 12 of 13 passes and three touchdowns. It was also important to get extended reps for Quinten Dormady and that was exactly what happened. Dormady got off to a hot start by hitting Tyler Byrd on a 33-yard skinny post on his first pass and played solid afterward, finishing 9 of 13 for 109 yards.

Tennessee running back John Kelly picked up where he left at South Carolina and rushed for over 100 yards in just seven carries. It was interesting to say the least that he ran out it the pistol formation for a number of those carries. Carlin Fils-Aime got into the end zone twice with eight carries and Jeremy Lewis saw his first action of the year, adding seven carries.

Defensively the team pitched its first shutout since the North Texas game last year and got an opportunity to play a bunch of players in all areas.

Nigel Warrior shined again as a tackler, leading the team in stops with seven after replacing Evan Berry when he left with an injury. Jonathon Kongbo saw his playing time extended and Darrel Taylor got some solid reps.

The special teams excelled in punt return and Aaron Medley was 2 for 2 on field goals with a long of 42 yards. Marquez Callaway had two long punt returns with one being a 62-yard TD.

The amount of players that got to play and gain valuable developmental reps was beneficial. Any team needs that kind of shot in the arm for team morale with that many players playing extended time but this team needed that more than most.

Grades

Offense: A

Defense: A-

Special Teams: A-

Danny Parker's take

Any Southeastern Conference team playing host to an Ohio Valley Conference squad with a losing record, an epic beating should the place. (Think 16-year-old putting his 7-year-old brother in a choke hold.)

Tennessee proved up to the task, taking neighboring Tennessee Tech behind the woodshed for a 55-0 homecoming win Saturday in front of 98,343.

While a Golden Eagle roster filled with Volunteer State kids enjoyed a grand moment competing in front of nearly 100,000, they were the sacrificial lamb to help get the Vol train back on the track.

Seldom-used youngsters needed Joshua Dobbs and the offense to light up the scoreboard. The quicker they did, the sooner they’d get some live action. The Vols had four first-quarter possessions and scored touchdowns each time with no drive needing longer than 3 minutes, 45 seconds. It was a lopsided affair before the Cookeville bunch could blink. The only matter of question in from the first half were ignorant boos from home fans at the sight of Aaron Medley coming on to kick a 19-yard field goal. — to make the score 38-0.

Nigel Warrior spelling Evan Berry (apparent leg injury) provided another opportunity for the former Scout five-star prospect to put his identity on film for Butch Jones & Co. Warrior had not played a snap of safety until halfway through the season. His seven tackles showcased his ability as a center fielder and a skillset that’s lacked too often the last half decade.

Beyond Warrior it seemed like one underclassman after another took the field with several either getting their first carries or first receptions in a Tennessee uniform. So while some will shrug Saturday off as a lopsided non-con victory, there are many that will remember the 55-0 affair for a lifetime.

Bob Shoop’s defense not only pitched a shutout but held the Eagles to 6-of-19 on third down and accumulated four sacks. However, they only have one interception in eight quarters and again did not force a fumble.

Aaron Medley made both field goals attempted (19, 42). Trevor Daniel averaged 45.7 yards per punt. Marquez Callaway illustrated the the explosiveness and ability that I raved about in August and it’s perplexing that he didn’t see the field until Game 8. Callaway returned two punts for 114 yards and caught his first collegiate pass (1-13).

Grades

Offense: A

Defense: A

Special teams: A-

Dobbs, Malone, Vereen remark on homecoming win


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