The predicted bad weather held off. Another large crowd showed up. The defense, after a slow start, then came out on top in a 54-44 victory as the Vols used a modified scoring system to determine a winner.
The Vols made another impressive mark on the spring game attendance list, hosting the third-largest Orange and White Game in school history with an announced crowd of 63,016 showing up on what turned out to be a beautiful day in Knoxville.
That tally is the second-highest total in the SEC this year behind Alabama, and comes in fifth nationally behind Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and The Tide.
“Today, our fanbase continues to prove why they’re the best fan base in the country – a little over 63,000 – with the threat of severe weather they still come out,” said head coach Butch Jones.
On the field, Tennessee’s offense jumped out to a quick start, building a substantial lead in the modified scoring scenario. Wearing white, the offense scored on four of its first six possessions with a missed 33-yard field goal by Aaron Medley taking away an opportunity to make it five of six.
Many of UT’s prized offensive weapons were on display early.
Alvin Kamara took his first carry 10 yards and then wrapped up the opening drive with a short touchdown run. Starting quarterback Joshua Dobbs hit tight end Ethan Wolf on a 15-yard strike for the second score. Medley, after missing a chip shot opportunity, drilled a 55-yarder with room to spare.
Quarterback Quinten Dormady hit Josh Malone on a perfectly-thrown ball for 65 yards and another touchdown. Quarterback Jauan Jennings, the only QB allowed to be hit on the day, also added a 45-yard rushing TD to end the half.
The defense started to respond, however, late in the second quarter. A double-reverse went awry for the starting offense and a bad pitch ended up in the hands of cornerback Cam Sutton, who secured it and ran 20 yards for a defensive touchdown.
“Great players find a way to make plays,” Jones said, referring to Sutton. “Great players are always around the football. We always talk to our players, `When you play with great effort, you get the bounces.’ For some reason, the ball bounces your way. The ball finds you when you play with great effort. Cam has great instincts, he anticipates very well and he is a student of the game. We have not run that play in practice, either. To me, he read it, and it was great to see.”
It was then all defense in the second half. All seven drives came up empty for the offense during the final two quarters, which featured 12-minute running clocks. And when Jones pitted receivers against defensive backs in one-on-one drills, the defensive players won all seven reps, earning more points that helped eventually claim the win.
“We need to force ball disruptions,” said Jones. “I thought our defensive backs did a great job in knocking the ball out. We’ve got to find some receivers that can catch the football and advance the football. I was not particularly pleased with that area but they’ll get it right. A lot of things to teach on and a lot of things to move forward into spring football.”
Injury update: In addition to the players who had been held out in practice this spring, safety LaDarrell McNeil (hamstring) and cornerback Max Arnold also did not play.
Jalen Hurd, Devaun Swafford, Pig Howard and Marquez North all dressed out in Smokey Gray non-contact jerseys. North didn’t play much, if any.
Jones said there were no new injuries that he knew about during Saturday’s game and said that every other player who has been out with injury is either on or ahead of schedule.
Spring awards: The Vols handed out spring award during halftime:
• Al Wilson Leadership Award (Def.): Cam Sutton
• Inaugural Peyton Manning Leadership Award (Off.): Joshua Dobbs
• Harvey Robinson Off. Player Award: Jashon Robertson
• Andy Spiva Defensive Player Award: Rashaan Gaulden
• John Stucky Award (Skill): Malik Foreman
• John Stucky Award (Power): Jashon Robertson
• John Stucky Award (Power): Kendal Vickers
• 63 Effort Award: Johnathon Johnson
Final stats from the Orange and White Game: pic.twitter.com/KyFqgkNl1s
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) April 25, 2015
Final stats for the defense: pic.twitter.com/9fl6Ggsapj
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) April 26, 2015