5 Observations: Tennessee vs. North Texas

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    Just about anyone who saw this game will tell you it wasn’t exactly the most exciting game Tennessee has played this season. While the Vols were expected to put on a show, they ended up scoring just 24 points. Obviously a win is a win in college football, and Butch Jones has stated before that he won’t apologize for winning. But even he had to be frustrated at the lack of energy and excitement of this game. Either way, Tennessee was able to pull out the win over the Mean Green with a 24-0 shut out and I doubt Butch is complaining about it. Here are a few things we observed while watching the game.

    Field conditions: I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring this up first and foremost. Talk continues of the possibility of returning to artificial turf in Neyland Stadium. But until it actually happens, it’s just talk. All afternoon players from both teams struggled to keep their footing, and it was easy to see the frustrations from the poor field condition. Shields-Watkins field hasn’t always had so many issues. But this year, specifically the last few games, have really been problematic. North Texas quarterback DeMarcus Smith had several slips in the backfield while scrambling, and Alvin Kamara had trouble keeping his footing at times as well. It will be interesting and important to see what the athletic department does to fix these problems.

    Negative Nancy: Depending on the source, most lines had this game somewhere around 40 points for the Vols. Many thought this game would be a blow out and an opportunity to get backups in much faster or try a few new formations. But neither scenario really happened. Tennessee really struggled at times to keep drives alive and most of the offense was typical to Mike DeBord’s play calling. While fans were hopeful to see Quinten Dormady at quarterback after halftime, he didn’t get in the game until late in the fourth quarter. Josh Dobbs struggled at times to throw accurate passes, which led to a run-heavy offense and several quick screens. While it’s hard for Tennessee fans to complain about winning, it was a little discouraging to see Tennessee struggle so much against such a less talented team.

    Kamara: For just the second time this season, Alvin Kamara hit the 100 mark after rushing for 127 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns. Although he has been very productive throughout the season, Kamara’s last game recording over 100 yards rushing was Bowling Green. A second straight game with a fumble was a near disaster for Kamara but he was still a bright spot in an otherwise slow-moving game. Hopefully he can carry some of this momentum into next week as Tennessee looks to snap a three-game losing streak to division opponent Mizzou.

    Stout Defense: One could argue that field conditions prevented the North Texas offense from performing better than they did, and I would probably agree. But I’m going to stay positive and credit the Tennessee defense for a truly solid performance. They held the Mean Green to under 200 yards of total offense which is an incredible feat against any team. Add six tackles for loss, including two sacks, and it’s hard to have a better day defensively. Although you might still want to see some more turnovers forced, it’s hard to complain about a defense that prevents the opponent from crossing your 45 yard line and ultimately pitches a shutout.

    Eyes Wide for Dormady: No, I’m not saying Quinten Dormady should replace Joshua Dobbs. I’m not even saying there should be a quarterback controversy. But every time Dormady drops back to pass, everyone’s eyes get just a little bit wider. The kid has a cannon, and is usually extremely accurate. He only played the last few minutes of the game, but he went 3-5 for 36 yards. And had Josh Smith been able to re-position himself a little better, he might have caught Dormady’s lone deep pass. Butch Jones says this team has confidence in Dormady playing at any time of any game, and it’s hard to argue with him. The future continues to look bright for the true freshman from Texas.