While some of those absences are relatively minor, one massive injury occurred late in the first quarter when starting running back Jalen Hurd went down and didn’t return with what Butch Jones called an “upper-body extremity” injury.
Hurd went to the sideline after a timeout and was immediately looked at by trainers, who quickly took his helmet away and eventually ruled him out for the rest of the contest. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs (91 yards) and senior reserve Marlin Lane (51) picked up the slack in UT’s running game that finished with 170 yards on the afternoon. Freshman running back Derrell Scott (hand) did dress with a soft cast on his hand, but didn’t make an appearance.
Receiver is another position that the Vols are fighting through injuries at. Marquez North and Josh Smith are already out for the season and key reserve Jason Croom was extremely limited after getting banged up in practice this week. Von Pearson, Pig Howard and freshman Vic Wharton got the start at receiver. The Vols only had 92 yards of passing in the game.
Center Mack Crowder (knee, ankle) dressed out, but sophomore Dylan Wiesman played the full game in his spot. LaTroy Lewis started at defensive end over Corey Vereen, though Butch Jones didn’t note if that was an injury or performance-related decision. Several other Vols including Jashon Robertson, Brian Randolph and Derek Barnett, missed at least a portion of the Vandy game, but none of those injuries prevented them from coming back into the game.
Bowl talk: Just moments after clinching bowl eligibility, Butch Jones didn’t state any preferences of where the Vols end up.
“I don’t care where we go,” Jones said. “That’s up for discussion down the road. I’m just really, really excited for our kids and everyone involved and for our great fan base. This is something that hasn’t happened in a few years and we’re fifth all-time in bowl appearances and I believe this will be bowl appearance No. 50 and we’re going to enjoy No. 50 wherever it’s at.”
Jones is interested in the impact that the bowl game, regardless of where it is, will have on the development of the program.
“Invaluable for many reasons: to teach, to continue to progress the individuals that are redshirting, but also to get in the strength and conditioning room,” he said. “We’ve had too much time off here in the past with not going to bowl games.”
Reps from the Independence, Music City and Liberty Bowls were in attendance on Saturday.
• Kicker Aaron Medley (19-of-25) made another field goal to move him into a tie for fifth all-time in UT’s history in made field goals in a single season.
• Curt Maggitt recorded two sacks in the game, giving him 11 sacks on the season, tying him for fourth in UT history in a single season. Derek Barnett picked up his 10th sack of the season, tying him for the sixth-most sacks in a single season in UT history. Barnett’s total of 20.5 TFLs on the year ties him for fifth-most in school history. It’s believed to be the first time in school history that two players have recorded double-digit sack totals in the same year.
• Wharton became the 11th true freshman starter for the Vols this season, joining Ethan Wolf, Daniel Helm, Jalen Hurd, Jashon Robertson, Derek Barnett, Emmanuel Moseley, Todd Kelly Jr., Josh Malone, Jakob Johnson and Coleman Thomas.
• LaTroy Lewis made his first career start. Linebacker Kenny Bynum played the last few possessions in place of Jakob Johnson at inside linebacker.