Result? Marshall drove 80 yards for a touchdown to pull within 21-17 ... with 49 of the 80 yards coming as direct result of Vol penalties. Suddenly, a game that was on the verge of becoming a cakewalk was a dogfight again.
These were the same Vol defenders who totally stifled Fresno State a week earlier, so they may have been frustrated by the ease with which Marshall moved the ball on them in the first half. Might that explain the rash of infractions?
''I don't think so,'' Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis said. ''I don't think our guys do things like out of frustration. They were being aggressive; they just weren't being very smart.''
Tennessee's defenders didn't look very smart in the first quarter, either. The Thundering Herd piled up 119 yards of total offense (74 rushing, 45 passing). Seemingly confused UT defenders appeared clueless as to what the visitors were doing offensively but Chavis insists that wasn't the case.
''They didn't really surprise us,'' the coordinator said. ''They executed, did a good job. They've been putting up close to 500 yards per game every year. If we could've eliminated the penalties, we could've gotten off the field a lot quicker. And we needed to tackle better. Those are two areas we've got to improve on before we play anybody in our league.''
Based on Saturday's performance, Marshall's offense seems to be as good as most of the SEC offenses Tennessee will face this fall. Stan Hill (16 of 24 passing for 242 yards and three touchdowns) is a skilled and resourceful quarterback. Darius Watts (9 catches 109 yards) and Josh Davis (6 catches, 123 yards) are superb receivers. And Chavis thinks sophomore tailback Earl Charles (10 carries for 56 yards) has first-round potential as a future NFL player.
Clearly, the Herd attack presents plenty of challenges.
''They tested us really well,'' Chavis said. ''They did a tremendous job. I really thought we would've played a little better but they've got a good football team and you've got to give them credit.''
Although Marshall deserves credit for some of the offensive success it achieved, Tennessee's occasional mental lapses deserve some blame, as well. Chavis conceded that the Vols made a lot of mistakes on Saturday.
''Sometimes you tell 'em but, until it happens, they don't believe it,'' he said. ''Now I think they'll respond a lot better.''