Vols Pull Away Late, Win 59-30

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    Pre-game notes: 

    • Scouts from the Panthers, Eagles, Jets and Falcons are in attendance.

    • Tennessee announced shortly before the game that defensive backs coach Willie Martinez is suspended for the game. More info.

    • WR Marquez North and DB Todd Kelly Jr. are both dressed for the game

    • Based on warm-ups, it appears the starting lineup on offense will be Dobbs, Hurd, North, Jennings, Malone, Wolf, Kerbyson, Robertson, Thomas, Wiesman and Kendrick. Defensively, Vereen, Barnett, Vickers, O’Brien, Reeves-Maybin, Jumper, Maggitt, Moseley, Sutton, Randolph and Kelly Jr. were announced as the starters on defense.

    1st Quarter:

    Mostly predictable and a frankly conservative first quarter for the Vols, but a few things certainly stood out. Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara are a monster duo for Tennessee, and Offensive Coordinator Mike Debord hasn’t been shy about giving Kamara his share of the burn with each back getting roughly 50% of the carries. Jalen Hurd simply can’t be stopped by a defense like Bowling Green has on the field. He runs more violently than almost any back in the conference, and has improved his timing in stepping through the hole created by the line. Speaking of the Offensive Line, a major question mark heading into the season, this new look lineup of UT’s is doing the little things substantially better than they were at this time last year. Bowling Green’s defensive line is nothing to write home about, but this group has struggled to dominate inferior opponents in the past, and has owned the line of scrimmage today.

    Defensively the play has mostly been fine, very little rotation along the line thus far, I didn’t see McKenzie if he got in at all. The secondary, who is without Willie Martinez today, had a few communication issues that resulted in long passing plays or plays that would have been exposed by better teams. The loss of Rashaan Gaulden can easily be felt, and that unit needs to tighten things up before the Oklahoma game.

    Cam Sutton is a monster on the Punt Return game, with an average 40.5 yards per return, Tennessee has probably found their long term option there.

    Darrin Kirkland and Kendall Vickers were both involved early and often for the Vols in the first quarter, which isn’t surprising as both have been praised by the coaching staff throughout fall camp. Malik Foreman is the corner who gave up the biggest play of the game for Bowling Green, falling slightly out of position early in the play.

    Joshua Dobbs had one designed QB run in the first quarter, and Marquez North has yet to be targeted while Jauan Jennings appears to be real deal at WR, pulling in a few impressive catches. Stay tuned for another update at the half.

    2nd Quarter:

    Not much to say about this second quarter, the defensive effort was downright abysmal. The coaching staff has elected to keep a very small rotation along the defensive line, and there has been little pressure on the QB outside of a huge sack from Jalen Reeves-Maybin at the 5:48 mark to prevent Bowling Green from taking a 24-21 lead.

    Malik Foreman and Emmanuel Moseley have been abused by Bowling Green wideout Gehrig Dieter repeatedly, with safety Evan Berry struggling to provide help on time. After taking a big lead early, the Vols defense may have gotten complacent, and Bowling Green made them pay severely.

    The final defensive stand of the half was a much needed improvement for the Vols, with the defensive line finally disrupting the Bowling Green Quarterback, highlighted by a pass deflection from Corey Vereen. Cam Sutton and Reeves-Maybin stepped up to make the plays that Tennessee desperately needed late in the half.

    The defensive woes for the Vols forced Tennessee to open up its offensive playbook and use plays or formations they probably preferred to keep under wraps until next week. We saw more plays with Joshua Dobbs taking five step drops as opposed to three, as well as keeping the ball on designed run plays.

    Alvin Kamara, Jalen Hurd, and Joshua Dobbs were mostly consistent in their efforts as the clear focal points of the second quarter offense. The offensive line continues to be a pleasant surprise for Vol fans, creating plenty of room for the powerful running back duo to get yards. Hurd is a freak of nature and could challenge Nick Chubb and others for the 1st team All-SEC ballot this season.

    Dobbs engineered an impressive drive to end the half, set up nicely by yet another big return from Cam Sutton, who piled up 102 return yards in the first half. Dobbs get help on the drive from Josh Malone and Ethan Wolf who eventually drove his way in for a touchdown with :24 seconds left in the half.

    At the risk of being cliché, it’s possible that Tennessee will benefit from the brief scare Bowling Green put into them in the second quarter, but the Vols have to get their defense on the same page for the second half.

    3rd Quarter:

    After a 29 hour weather break Tennessee returned to the field and continued to struggle on defense. Bowling Green took the time off in the locker room to create an effective strategy around Quarterback keeps and marched down the field once again without too many problems.

    Derek Barnett has picked up a few boneheaded penalties in his short tenure with the Vols, including one tonight but continues to be a very stellar edge setter for the Vols. Cam Sutton is the other lone bright spot for Tennessee on defense, while Colton Jumper, Emmanuel Moseley, and Malik Foreman could be considered major problem spots for the Vols.

    Offensively the Vols are doing just fine, Alvin Kamara broke a 56 yard touchdown, proving he’s the home run threat that the staff hoped he would be. Dobbs found Jauan Jennings for a nice chunk of yards, and Von Pearson ran a sweep in for a touch down that was called back due to holding.

    Kicker Aaron Medley has had a rough night, missing two field goals and leaving one field goal out of bounds.

    4th Quarter: 

    The Vols were finally able to pull away in the fourth, and more importantly finally found a few stops on defense. Not to offer excuses for the Vols secondary, which had a pretty tough night, but Bowling Green Quarterback Matt Johnson is likely one of the best that Tennessee will see all year. He made life very difficult for Tennessee it its season opener, but that may serve the Vols well heading into Oklahoma week.

    After the game was securely put away, Tennessee was afforded an opportunity see what the reserves are capable of and John Kelly in particular gave an impressive showing. Kelly has a great motor and is particularly effective for a freshman in spotting gaps as the open up.

    Hats off to the offensive line for a stellar performance after facing some serious speculation in the preseason, Kyler Kerbyson seems to have settled into the left tackle spot well. It’s important to keep in mind that Bowling Green did not present a talented defensive line, but also keep in mind that this O-Line got roughed up pretty badly against UTC last year.

    Tennessee will get its secondary coach back next week, and the talk all week will be about needed adjustments to the secondary. Tennessee showed a lot of promise tonight, especially around a running game that is completely legit but if the defensive problems aren’t remedied there’s a much lower ceiling for this team than previously expected.