No fumbles. No interceptions. Three starting blockers out. Total of 609 yards and 56 offensive points.
Mike DeBord and Tennessee’s offense may have saved the best for the last game at Neyland Stadium for 2016.
To tack on, the Volunteers had just three penalties — unsportsmanlike on Jauan Jennings after a touchdown, holding call that was declined and unsportsmanlike when teammates took up for John Kelly following post-whistle activity.
It wasn’t just a far cleaner performance but it was a magnificent display of execution as Tennessee converted on 9 of 15 third downs. DeBord said his unit hit on 73 percent of first downs and 58 percent on second downs.
“We’re doing a really good job of executing right now,” DeBord said at Monday’s press conference.
In for Chance Hall, Jack Jones and Dylan Wiesman up front were Venzell Boulware, Drew Richmond and Coleman Thomas. They paired up with right tackle Brett Kendrick and left guard Jashon Robertson to pave the way for 386 net rushing yards and gave quarterback Joshua Dobbs time to complete 68.1 percent of his 22 passes.
“It speaks volumes to their development and (Tennessee offensive line) coach (Don) Mahoney staying with them and continuing to work and improvement with those guys,” DeBord said.
For the second straight Saturday, Dobbs accounted for five touchdowns.
“I think Josh has had a great year,” DeBord said. “I think right now he’s playing extremely well running the football as well as throwing the football. He’s probably at the top of his game right now.”
Dobbs got a singular ovation from Tennessee fans not only as he ran through the T as part of the Senior Day ceremony but also in the fourth quarter when Quinten Dormady received the captain. DeBord: “Every play you know what you’re going to get out of that guy.”
Tennessee’s offense will need to do more of the same to overcome a Vols defense that’s out at least six key contributors and struggling mightily of late. The Vanderbilt defense hasn’t allowed more than 26 points to a Southeastern Conference opponent and five times its held league foes to under 21.
“I think first of all, they have great talent,” DeBord said. “They’re talented up front all the way to the back end. Their linebackers are really good as well. I also think they’re very well coached.
“They’re not as multiple scheme-wise as what we just saw from Missouri, but yet their scheme is very good and they play it very well.”
Vanderbilt owns the country’s second-best red-zone defense, No. 23 scoring defense and linebacker Zach Cunningham leads the SEC with 109 tackles.
Find out more about the Vols offense and the regular season finale by watching the DeBord press conference video above.