The Best and the Worst in UT’s Opening Game

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    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    There were plenty of bad and ugly plays from the Vols’ 20-13 overtime victory over Appalachian State on Thursday, September 1st. But there were also enough good plays to help the Vols escape with a victory over a determined and gritty Mountaineers sqaud.

    Some of Tennessee’s most experienced and talented players had some uncharacteristically bad performances, but others stepped up when it mattered most. And some of the younger and less experienced Vols made the most of the big moment and made a name for themselves.

    Here are the best and worst performances from both sides of the ball from the Vols in their 20-13 overtime win against Appalachian State.

    The Best

    Jalen Hurd, RB

    It may not have been the best game of his career, but Hurd made some big plays and possibly the biggest play of the game for the Vols late.

    Hurd finished with 110 rushing yards on 28 carries and scored a touchdown. That touchdown, however, didn’t come on a standard run. Hurd recovered Josh Dobbs’ fumble in the end zone in overtime to give the Vols the decisive score. If not for his awareness, the outcome might have been completely different for Tennessee.

    He will have better overall games, but Hurd was definitely a bright spot for the Vols on offense in an otherwise ugly performance.

    Micah Abernathy, DB

    The sophomore defensive back had limited playing time as a freshman last year, but coaches loved what he did at safety this offseason and gave him the starting nod at the position. And the first-time starter didn’t disappoint.

    Abernathy finished with seven total tackles, a tackle for a loss, and a pass broken up. And that pass break up came at the most crucial time possible: In overtime on Appalachian State’s very last play.

    Micah Abernathy had himself an excellent debut as the Vols’ starting safety alongside Todd Kelly Jr., and he shined on the defensive side of the ball.

    The Worst

    Coleman Thomas, OL

    Tennessee’s offensive line as a whole struggled for most of the night on pass and run blocking both. But one of the main offenders was center Coleman Thomas.

    There were a few plays where Thomas was beat by smaller, less athletic linemen, but this play was one of the most egregious errors of the night on the line:

    Thomas isn’t a bad center. He showed last season that he has potential to be very solid at the position. But he had one of the worst performances of his career in Tennessee’s opener, and he will have to recover in the coming weeks before the Vols take on SEC defensive lines.

    LaTroy Lewis, DE

    The Vols’ defense didn’t have a terrible night, but the defensive line was a bit underwhelming. And one of the more lackluster performances came from redshirt senior LaTroy Lewis.

    Lewis didn’t have an awful day, as he totaled seven tackles on the night. But he failed to get a sack, tackle for loss, or even a quarterback hurry. He was pushed around a few times and was caught out of position on a few big plays from Appalachian State’s offense.

    The Vols run a rotation at defensive end, so even if Lewis can’t up his play in the future, there should be plenty of options moving forward. But Lewis should be able to rebound.

    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.