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The Plays that Won the Game for the Vols

Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

The Vols had several big plays that helped them edge out a double-overtime victory over Georgia Tech in their season opener on Monday. Tennessee’s offense was stagnant and barely on the field in the first half, and the defense had to keep them in it. But the offense finally began to execute better in the second half, and they bailed out a worn down defense just in time.

Tennessee needed every big play they could muster to find a way to win their season opener against Georgia Tech’s difficult offense. And we’ve cataloged the biggest plays that helped Tennessee emerge victorious on Monday night.

Here are the plays that won the game for the Vols in Week 1:

Tennessee’s defense had fire and intensity in the first half. Before that faded because of Tech’s dominance with the time of possession, Daniel Bituli made an extremely important play in what would be a career night for the sophomore. This forced fumble led to Tennessee’s first score of the night.

Marquez Callaway’s first touchdown was impressive enough. He caught a well-executed fade route in the third quarter for a 10-yard score on his first catch of the game. Callaway’s second catch was also a touchdown, and it came at a perfect time for the Vols.

Tennessee desperately needed a quick score after Georgia Tech re-extended their lead to two scores after a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. And with just under 12 minutes left to go in regulation, Callaway turned a short pass into a 50-yard touchdown.

The Vols didn’t turn the ball over a single time against Georgia Tech, and they forced two Tech turnovers. And Tennessee’s offense capitalized on both, scoring touchdowns on each ensuing possession. Rashaan Gaulden’s punch-out fumble came late into the fourth quarter and saved the game for the Vols at the moment. Tech was deep in Tennessee territory before Gaulden forced the fumble.

After that fumble recovery, Tennessee drove 93 yards in three and a half minutes to tie up the game with 1:29 left in regulation. And that happened thanks to this tough run by John Kelly.

Arguably the biggest play of the game aside from one later in overtime, walk-on defensive lineman Paul Bain gets his hand on the ball and blocks a low kick by Georgia Tech’s kicker. The field goal attempt was a potential game-winner for the Yellow Jackets, but Tennessee blocked it as time expired. And the game went into overtime.

Once again, great effort from Kelly gives the Vols another score. Tennessee was likely to score on one of their next plays from this close, but the extension, though dangerous, just speaks to Kelly’s determination and grit.

And, of course, the biggest play of the game was the last one. Tennessee had trouble stopping the flexbone/option offense ever since the first few possessions of the first quarter. But the beleaguered defense made the biggest stop of the game when it mattered most.

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