Some pre-game and in-game notes from Tennessee’s matchup against North Texas on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
• The Vols are going with the all-orange uniform look for Homecoming against the Mean Green.
• WR Preston Williams, LB Quart’e Sapp, OL Jashon Robertson and OL Drew Richmond are among the players not dressed and ruled out.
• OL Brett Kendrick and WR Marquez North, who are both questionable, are dressed out and going through warm-ups. Both are working with the second team – we’ll see if they actually play.
• Field conditions will be an issue again. A couple UT players noticeably slipped during warm-ups and, just like last week, it will be something to watch.
First quarter (Vols lead 7-0): Butch Jones elected to take the ball first – likely hoping to score early to set the tone. The Vols did just that, needing just five plays, to work their way down the short field that they got after North Texas pooched the opening kickoff. Alvin Kamara’s 28-yard run behind the right side capped off the quick-strike drive that took under two minutes.
Tennessee got a three-and-out on its first defensive opportunity and took over at its own 25 for a second drive. Tennessee started to move the ball at ease again looking to expand on the lead. Joshua Dobbs hit Von Pearson for an 18-yard gain and then Dobbs converted a fourth down on a rare under-center QB sneak later in the drive. But Tennessee stalled at the NT 35 when Dobbs air-mailed Ethan Wolf on a 3rd-and-15 and Butch Jones sent Trevor Daniel in to punt instead of trying a 52-yarder with Aaron Medley. Daniel did his job, pinning the Mean Green inside the 5.
But North Texas responded with a nice effort, driving all the way to midfield before UT, aided by a Derek Barnett sack (his sixth in five games) was finally able to get a stop and force a punt by the Mean Green. Tennessee moved inside the NT 1-yard line as the first quarter elapsed on a nice throw from Dobbs to Jennings, putting itself in scoring position, but also with just a one-score lead after 15 minutes.
All-in-all, Butch Jones won’t be thrilled with that start after he spoke all week on the importance of “noon focus” and “home focus.” Tennessee isn’t in any real trouble, but that wasn’t a real sharp start. The field continues to be an issue as well with several players slipping from both teams.
Second quarter (Vols lead 17-0): Tennessee made easy work of the short field position as Jalen Hurd leaped over the line for a touchdown putting the Vols up 14-0. North Texas was able to move the ball well on the following drive, but a missed pass forced a fourth and long. Although the Mean Green attempted a punt fake pass, Chris Weatherd was there to snuff it out, turning the ball over on downs.
After starting from the NT 43 yard line, the Vols went three-and-out after more inaccurate passes from Josh Dobbs. Both teams played a little back-and-forth without either team really making much headway. North Texas decided to try to go for it again on fourth down, but was stood up by Jalen Reeves-Maybin. A couple of big plays by Jalen Hurd took the Vols inside the NT 10-yard line, but a sack on third down forced a 34-yard field goal by Aaron Medley giving Tennessee the lead 17-0.
After a forced punt, the Vols were able to move the ball fairly well with some easy throws. But a costly interception by Josh Dobbs gave North Texas the ball with just a few seconds left in the half inside its own 10 to end the scoring threat.
North Texas took a knee to send the game to halftime and likely felt good about holding the Vols to just 17 in the first half. Field conditions continued to be problematic for both teams as players continually lost footing or slipped while making cuts. There really wasn’t much excitement in the first half. And considering the Vols came in to this game expected to blow North Texas out of the water, it was a head-scratching first-half. Tbe Vols will likely have to keep the starters in longer than they wanted and might not get the semi-bye they were hoping for.
Halftime stats: pic.twitter.com/emAc2tZIAa
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) November 14, 2015
Third quarter (Vols lead 17-0): That was one of the more uninspiring quarters of football played in Neyland Stadium in awhile. Neither team could move the ball consistently nor really get anything going. The Vols had a 6-play, 21-yard drive that made it near midfield, but Butch Jones made the questionable decision to punt the ball on 4th-and-1 from that point to give it back to North Texas.
It’s understandable on some levels that Jones didn’t want to give North Texas anything cheap there, but it’s also embarrassing for UT that the Vols didn’t have confidence to send their offense out on the field to get a yard against one of the worst teams in the nation.
The Mean Green put together a couple seven-play drives, but couldn’t squeeze any points out of them – though they did help keep UT backed up in terms of field position. Tennessee, helped by a nice 22-yard toss from Dobbs to Malone on the sideline during a scramble drill, moved into North Texas as the third quarter elapsed.
Tennessee, in all likelihood, will win this game, but it has just been an uninspiring effort from the Vols overall.
Fourth Quarter: It took just a few plays in to the fourth quarter for Tennessee to punch in another touchdown as Alvin Kamara scored from 15 yards out. While the game hasn’t been pretty, the Vols have been efficient enough to take a 24-0 lead.
The stadium continues to empty as more people make their way for the exit. Although the announced attendance was 96k, it was likely closer to around 90k. Either way, the energy in the stadium hasn’t exactly been typical of Neyland.
After another NT punt, Quinten Dormady took over for the Vols at quarterback and several other backups began seeing the field. Dormady looked crisp for the most part, but NT was still able to get a stop on third down.
Both teams really struggled to get much going throughout this game. Although Tennessee’s defense prevented North Texas from crossing the UT 45 yard line, the Mean Green didn’t help themselves out much. Several dropped passes by NT and slips due to the field condition kept this game from living up to its full potential.
In his limited time, Dormady played well and made several impressive throws. And John Kelly continues to shine when he gets the ball. It wasn’t the North Texas slaughter that most people thought it would be. But in the end, the Vols pulled out the win.
Final Score: Tennessee 24, North Texas 0