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In-Game Blog…Final: OU 31, UT 24

Neyland Stadium-1-6Pre-game notes: 

• Scouts from the Raiders, Cowboys, Falcons, Eagles, Rams, Bills, Saints and Titans (x2) are in attendance for the game today

• Reps from the Liberty Bowl and Citrus Bowl are also in attendance

• Checker Neyland is filling in nicely. There will be a lot more Oklahoma fans than there were Florida fans for the Checker Neyland game, though. There will be a heavy dose of red, especially in the south end zone.

• Kerbyson, Jackson, Thomas, Wiesman, Kendrick, North, Jennings, Malone, Dobbs, Wolf and Hurd were working with the starters on offense during warm-ups. Pig Howard was getting reps with the second team.

1st Quarter: 

Oklahoma had some success moving the ball early, but the Vols got a nice break when DeDe Westbrook bobbled a pass and Todd Kelly Jr. scooped it up and returned it near midfield. Tennessee put together a nice drive after that, but it had a questionable ending. Tennessee got the ball down to the 1, but opted to go with Alvin Kamara on the goal line instead of Jalen Hurd. Kamara got stopped short and Butch Jones opted to settle for the field goal, which Aaron Medley connected on for the early 3-0 lead.

Not having Hurd in on third down and taking the field goal there seemed like early questionable calls. But UT’s defense continued to step up. Tennessee got three straight three and outs, keeping field position in UT’s favor. Tennessee took advantage of the short field on the drive that started with 4:57 left in the first. Jalen Hurd had some nice runs, Josh Malone had a nice conversion catch and then capped off the dive with a touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone.

All-in-all, hard to ask for a much better start for the Vols. Field position has been an early key for UT – starting close to midfield several times, while making OU drive the length of the field.

2nd Quarter:

Both teams have settled down a little bit, and Oklahoma did what they needed to do to keep the Vols from absolutely running away with this game. The success that Tennessee found on the ground game in the first quarter wasn’t there in the second, as the Sooners clogged the middle and sent pressure from the edges to keep Joshua Dobbs contained in the pocket.

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield finished the first half 7-of-20 for 77 yards and the interception to Todd Kelly Jr. Oklahoma clearly wanted to pick on Emmanuel Moseley in tonight’s game, but the Tennessee sophomore has been up the early challenge. Moseley has had tight coverage and a few deflections on the night, including a critical stop on 4th down as the Sooners were looking to score before the half.

Jalen Hurd has 13 carries for 66 yards in the first half, including some bruising runs early in the second quarter that set up Tennessee’s touchdown – a walk-in around left end for Joshua Dobbs. Dobbs sits at 6-of-12 on the night for 61 yards and the touchdown to Josh Malone, and has also added 19 yards and the touchdown on the ground.

The second half should be interesting as teams look to adjust to each other and what they’ve seen in the first half. Tennessee getting the ball to start the half could prove huge if they can put some points on the board.

3rd Quarter:

What a strange quarter. Offense was virtually non-existent except for an opening drive for UT that got the Vols within scoring range. Aaron Medley, however, missed a 48-yard field goal, squandering that opportunity.

In addition to that missed field goal, the teams combined for six punts and a turnover. That turnover was a big one. Todd Kelly stepped into the passing lane of Baker Mayfield to grab his second INT of the game late in the third quarter, becoming the first Vol since Brian Randolph in 2013 to grab two picks in one game. That set the Vols up in good field position, but UT lost 12 on the first play on a crazy fumble situation that Jalen Hurd was able to get in the middle of a group of Sooners and recover.

That was the second close-to-disaster situation for the Vols this quarter, who also got bailed out earlier in the quarter by the refs calling Joshua Dobbs’ progress stopped on a play where he eventually fumbled and OU picked it up and started running for what would’ve been a touchdown. Overall, both offenses couldn’t do much in the third, but UT, with the lead, has been content to keep winning the field position battle and see if it can outlast the Sooners.

More post-game coverage coming later…

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