Quinten Dormady probably didn’t plan on such a fiasco of a first start.
“Just stay calm, cool and collected,” is what Dormady said he kept telling himself during his first career start in college. When he talked to reporters following the Vols’ dramatic 42-41 win over Georgia Tech, Dormady made it clear that nerves didn’t play a role in his first start.
“My blood pressure never went up,” Dormady said. “It was just (about) staying calm. We knew we had our shots, we just had to start executing. And after halftime we came out and did that.”
Dormady and sophomore receiver Marquez Callaway executed well in the second half after a rough start to the game. Callaway caught four passes for 115 yards, including two touchdowns.
But in the first half, Dormady relied heavily on Jauan Jennings, who left the game with an injury in the first half. Dormady’s first three throws targeted the junior wide receiver.
Dormady was 12-for-17 with 169 yards through the air after Jennings’ absence, though. And that was due in large part to Callaway’s emergence.
Callaway wasn’t even targeted in the first half. But Dormady and the Vols’ offensive coaching staff recognized a mismatch in the secondary. So they fed the sophomore.
“It goes back to matchups,” Dormady said after the game. “They were playing some different coverages and giving us one-on-one on the back side. Having Marquez back there, that was an opportunity to take advantage of and I think we did that in the second half.
In the first half, Tennessee was 2-for-7 on first downs, and Dormady was just 8-of-20 for 52 yards. In the second half, the Vols were 3-for-5 on third down, and Dormady completed 70.6 percent of his passes after halftime. According to Dormady, that was the difference in the game.
When Tennessee wasn’t facing a third and long, it was able to speed up the tempo.
“I think it goes back to…in the first half we were in a lot of third and longs,” Dormady stated. “That kind of slows the game down a bit to make sure we’re in the right play. Gong into the second half, we knew we had to stay ahead of the sticks. When we did that, things starting picking up.”
Callaway wasn’t nervous either.
With Jauan Jennings out for the game, he knew he had to step up.
“We’re always ready,” Callaway said. “Not just me but all of the receivers. They were ready today too. We always want to have a game-changing play. Having that big play gave us a spark on the defense too. The defense gave us spark and we gave them spark.”
Tennessee wasn’t thrown off by negatives, which wasn’t always the case last season. Especially in the last half of the year.
When the Vols won, they somehow found a way to win, coming back from the jaws of defeat multiple times. Until those negatives caught up to them, and injuries unveiled a lack of depth and experience behind a wounded group of veterans.
Callaway didn’t see it that way tonight. To him, it was just another game, taking things play-by-play until the final buzzer.
It didn’t matter if Jennings was on the field. Callaway was going to make an impact.
“It’s nothing we haven’t done before,” Callaway stated. “It’s the same plays we’ve done before. We just went out and executed, with or without him.”
Dormady says that this kind of mentality from Callaway isn’t new.
The sophomore wide receiver was chosen for Tennessee’s VOLeaders Academy, a leadership training program where student-athletes are trained to lead their teams.
Despite his youth and lack of experience, Dormady says that Callaway makes a difference everyday.
“He stepped up. He’s that kind of guy,” Dormady said. “He just puts his head down and works everyday. He’s one of the hardest working guys on our team.”