Some aspects of Tennessee’s 45-10 over Chattanooga felt the same, however. The Vols remained dominant on defense and struggled on the offensive line and in the run game. But quarterback Justin Worley had a nice bounce-back performance, throwing for 198 yards and accounting for five total touchdowns – three through the air and two on the ground.
“It was there and he took it,” Butch Jones said of why Worley kept the ball a few times near the goal line. “I thought Justin was more aggressive in his mindset, in his thinking, in the way he played the game. He played confident, which is what we’re going to continue to need as we move forward.”
Tennessee struck first after a 42-yard punt return from Cam Sutton set the Vols up with good field position. Worley capitalized, hitting Marquez North for a 5-yard touchdown pass, giving the Vols a 7-0 lead.
Kicker Aaron Medley, who also had seven touchbacks on kickoffs, expanded that lead to 10-0 with a chip-shot field goal two possessions later. The Vols quickly started pulling away soon after that. Derek Barnett hopped on a UTC fumble in Mocs territory. Three plays later, Justin Worley ran through a UTC defender for an 8-yard touchdown run and a 17-0 lead.
The Mocs found the scoreboard late in the second quarter on a short field goal by Henrique Robiero. Tennessee responded before the end of the half however, driving 71 yards in under two minutes and finding the end zone on a 21-yard strike from Worley to Johnathon Johnson for Johnson’s first career score and a 24-3 edge at the half – assuring that there would be little hope for the Mocs to pull of any kind of stunning upset.
“I thought we did what we needed to do to win the football game tonight – it was a business-like approach,” Jones said
“Day One after the loss last week, [Coach Jones] came in – he was visibly upset after the loss but it was all, we’re moving on to this week,” Worley added. “We can’t worry about that. We’ve got to go out there. It’s a new week. A new game. Another step in the road to get to a bowl game, which is our goal. I credit him for getting us ready for this game.”
The Vols continued to take care of business early in the second half. With Devrin Young out of the game with what Jones said initially looked like cracked ribs, true freshman Evan Berry took the opening kickoff of the second half back over 60 yards, setting the Vols up with great field position. Worley took his second keeper in from four yards out this time, building the lead to 38-3 and cueing a mass influx of reserves into the game.
“We saw throughout the week that their defensive ends were very aggressive, so we knew we might have some opportunities [to run],” Worley said.
The teams would exchange touchdowns in the fourth quarter, with UT backup quarterback Nathan Peterman finding the end zone for the first time in his career on a 14-yard keeper with 3:40 remaining in the game to account for the final tally of 45-10.
Jones saw a mixed bag from some of his less experienced players. He was pleased with Berry’s kickoff return and some of the experience that the young players got. But UTC’s late touchdown didn’t sit well with Jones.
“I wasn’t particularly pleased with the individuals that were getting repetitions at the end of the game,” he said. “I said to Curt (Maggitt) and A.J. (Johnson) that the standard and expectation doesn’t change no matter who’s on the field. That’s why I huddled them up after that one series.”
The offensive line continues to be a glaring weak spot for the Vols as well. The Mocs piled up five sacks on the afternoon and held Tennessee to 123 yards on the ground – many of which came in the fourth quarter with the UTC starters out of the game.
That continues to loom as a massive concern for Tennessee with the likes of Ole Miss and Alabama and their strong defensive fronts looming on the schedule.
“Sometimes we overset on the pass rush and allow the guy on the inside to penetrate,” Jones said. “We have to trust our technique, so some of it was technique, some of it was getting beat one-on-one and some of it was a different player, so all you can do is get back to work.”
Injuries: Devrin Young’s cracked ribs appear to be the largest injury concern coming out of the game, though Butch Jones said the training room would be working overtime tonight. Marquez North left the game in the first half after a hard hit to the midsection, but did not return. Jones said he could have, but was very sore. Chris Weatherd, Ethan Wolf and Derek Barnett were among the players to limp off the field at some point, though all made a return. Marlin Lane (ankle) came out for warm-ups, but then took his pads off and didn’t play. Jalen Hurd (shoulder) only took two carries early in the game by design as the coaches try to get him back closer to 100% for more SEC play. Tackle Jacob Gilliam (ACL) was close to returning Jones said, though the redshirt senior did not make an appearance.
Lineup shuffling: Emmanuel Moseley earned the start at cornerback over Michael Williams, and Johnathon Johnson, who caught two TD passes, started over Pig Howard. Jones said it wasn’t an indictment on the replaced players, but rather a reward for the good week of practice for Moseley and Johnson. After Hurd’s cameo, freshman Derrell Scott, who made his season debut, and Justus Pickett took a majority of the reps at running back with the first team.
High praise from Huesman: Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman had some high praise for the Vols after the game:
“Tennessee plays hard. You don’t see any of the trash talking, you don’t see any of the late hits, you don’t see any of the garbage plays. They play football and play it well. You know, I think they’re doing a great job up here and they’re going to win some games this year.”