• Some pre-game notes: We’re about an hour from kickoff and the Vols are starting their warm-ups. There’s been a light drizzle in the area that’s been on and off for much of the afternoon. Tennessee is wearing pink socks, pink gloves and they have pink towels to promote breast cancer awareness. They’re in traditional orange jerseys and white pants outside of that. The Oakland Raiders have a scout in attendance at the game.
• Injury notes: Von Pearson is dressed out, but with heavily taped ankles. Players are still coming out, but the other running backs are out and we haven’t seen Marlin Lane yet. We’ll let you know if he comes out. Updated: Lane did come out late with a heavily taped ankle.
• Lineup notes: At least in the pre-game warm-ups, Evan Berry is running through drills with the safeties. He worked with the running backs and DBs in practice this week. More warm-up notes: Emmanuel Moseley got reps with the first-team defense at cornerback in place of Michael Williams. Jalen Hurd was the starting running back on offense. Jacob Gilliam worked with the second team at left tackle and Derrell Scott was the second-team running back in front of Lane.
1st quarter thoughts: We knew the Vols would hold some guys back today, but they’re definitely playing it safe with a lot of guys. Jalen Hurd took two carries and hasn’t returned. The RB load has been split by Derrell Scott, Justus Pickett and Devrin Young for the most part. Cornerback Michael Williams, tight end Ethan Wolf and receiver Pig Howard are other guys they appears to be holding back at some as well. Chris Weatherd took a big hit and left the game walking under his own power. The Vols had just two full offensive possession in the first quarter. One started on a short field after a Cam Sutton 42-yard punt return. Justin Worley finished that drive off with a 5-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Marquez North. The other drive was derailed by a Mocs TFL and sack. Tennessee’s run game isn’t finding much space against even the FCS-level Mocs. The Vols had just 11 yards on seven carries. The defense has been solid – forcing three 3-and-outs early.
2nd quarter thoughts: Mixed reviews for the Vol offense in this quarter…They were able to put up 17 points, but they also struggled to run the ball and protection for Justin Worley continues to be a problem. Justin Worley is the leading rusher at the half with 7 carries for just 12 yards, including 3 sacks. Jason Croom has been able to use his size and his physical style of play to get open against UTC’s secondary and he leads all players at the half with 6 catches for 76 yards, including a tip-toeing snag along the sideline to set up the final touchdown of the half for Tennessee – a 21-yard strike from Worley to Johnathon Johnson.
The defense gave up a field goal, but it came off of yet another Justin Worley fumble deep in UTC territory. The offense must do a better job of protecting the football moving forward…The defense has been playing great football lately, but have had their backs put against the wall by offensive turnovers too many times in recent weeks.
A somewhat sloppy first half for the Vols has been made worse by injuries to Devrin Young, Derek Barnett, Chris Weatherd, Marquez North, Ethan Wolf and Justin Worley. None seem to be significant, but the bumps and bruises appear to be piling up for Tennessee in this one.
3rd quarter thoughts: Not that there was a ton of doubt headed into this quarter, but the Vols have ended this one over the last 15 minutes and have a 38-3 lead heading into fourth quarter. Evan Berry showed his potential on the opening kickoff of the half, taking it back over 60 yards and putting the Vols in good field position. Justin Worley took advantage of it two plays later with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Johnathon Johnson, Johnson’s second score of the day. Worley added a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Vols the 35-point advantage. Substitutions are coming in generously on both sides of the ball and Nathan Peterman took over at quarterback late in the quarter.
4th quarter thoughts: It wasn’t always pretty, but the Vols did what they were supposed to do in this one. The backups got some valuable reps and showed promise on both sides of the ball, but also showed why they are the backups. Nathan Peterman had a 14-yard, spinning run for a touchdown and looked much more in control of the game than he has at any point this season. The defense did a solid job for the most part but did ultimately allow a touchdown run of their own. Assuming the injuries don’t prove to be serious, Tennessee appeared to escape today’s game in decent shape from a health standpoint.
Tennessee got the win, but still have to do a better job of managing their weaknesses – most notably along the offensive line. The Vols had 42 rushes today for only 123 yards and that just isn’t good enough against a team that was as outmatched as Chattanooga was today. The Vols will now travel to Oxford next week to face the best defense in the SEC, so things won’t be getting any easier moving forward.
FINAL: Vols – 45 Chattanooga – 10