As expected, Tennessee ran, passed, and walked all over Tennessee Tech on Saturday, winning by a final score of 55-0. The Vols dominated every phase of the game, and the blowout victory was a welcome sight after three consecutive losses, most notably an ugly loss on the road to South Carolina the previous week.
Here are the five things we learned from Tennessee’s 55-0 rout against the Golden Eagles.
Vols Wake Up
For the first time since the Ohio game, the Vols came out firing on all cylinders. Except this time, they didn’t let up.
Tennessee’s first three possessions lasted only a minute and 53 seconds total, but the Vols scored touchdowns on all three drives. On the whole, Tennessee only had one drive that didn’t end in points in the first half. Josh Dobbs tossed three scores, John Kelly ran for a touchdown, and Carlin Fils-Aime got his first career score in the first half.
The Vols got out to a hot start, albeit against a vastly inferior opponent. But it was a nice change of pace from every other game this season.
Reserves Get Their Shot and Shine
It didn’t take long for the starters on both sides of the ball to get benched in this one. And Tennessee’s reserves used their opportunity to shine.
John Kelly, typically Tennessee’s third-string running back, got the start at running back and burst out of the gate with a 73-yard touchdown run on his second carry of the game. He finished with 104 yards on just seven carries. His backup, freshman Carlin Fils-Aime, ran for 27 yards on eight carries and scored his first and second career touchdowns. Jeremy Lewis also added 7 carries for 38 yards.
Wide receiver Brandon Johnson recorded five catches for 64 yards and was second on the team in receiving yards, trailing only Josh Malone’s 112-yard effort. Jeff George, Marquez Callaway, Eli Wolf, and Jakob Johnson also came down with their first career catches at Tennessee.
Quarterback Quinten Dormady got extensive action in this game. He replaced Josh Dobbs in the second quarter and completed 9-of-13 passes for 109 yards. Sheriron Jones also got snaps at quarterback late in the fourth quarter and completed his lone pass attempt.
On defense, Nigel Warrior showed out with a very solid effort. Cortez McDowell picked off a pass, and Elliot Berry got the start at linebacker alongside Darrin Kirkland Jr. Darrell Taylor came in and almost forced a fumble late in the fourth quarter, but the quarterback was ruled down. Dimarya Mixon and Marquill Osborne recorded a sack apiece.
And on special teams, Marquez Callaway also got a shot to return a punt for the first time in his career and ripped off a 52-yard return on his first and then returned one 62 yards for a score.
Clean, Efficient, and Pretty
The Vols had been plagued by penalties, turnovers, and overall sloppy play in every game this season. That wasn’t the case against Tennessee Tech, however.
Yes, the level of talent was considerably lower on Saturday, but the Vols still played their cleanest game of the season and got a “pretty” win over the FCS in-state team. Josh Dobbs only had one incomplete pass in 13 attempts, and he had his first game all season without an interception. The Vols committed no turnovers, and they only had six penalties for 71 yards. The Vols averaged 9.1 yards per play while Tennessee Tech only averaged 3 yards a play. Tennessee out-gained the Golden Eagles 471 yards to 224.
Take the efficiency with a grain of salt, but the Vols did look like a well-oiled machine on Saturday for the first arguably all season.
Plenty of High Fives to Go Around
Butch Jones mentioned earlier in the week that high fives and chest bumps have been proven to help team chemistry per a research article by The Wall Street Journal. And there were plenty of those to go around for Tennessee on Saturday.
The Vols scored their most points they have all season, and they shut out Tennessee Tech. Yes, the performance came against a mediocre FCS opponent, but it was the most complete game the Vols have played all season. There was plenty of reason for celebration in this one.
Vols Stay Alive in the SEC East Race
Tennessee didn’t even play an SEC game on Saturday, and they managed to get good news on their SEC East title hopes.
The Florida Gators were pummeled on the road by the Arkansas Razorbacks, losing 31-10 and dropping their second SEC game of the season. The Gators still have to lose another SEC game and Tennessee has to win out for the Vols to end up with the East crown, but the Vols remain very much alive in the division race thanks to Florida’s loss.
Even after an embarrassing loss to South Carolina last week, the Vols’ hopes of ending up in Atlanta remain alive.