The Vols played one of the ugliest games in the Butch Jones era but managed to come out of Saturday’s match-up with winless UMass with a 17-13 win.
Tennessee didn’t look good at any point on offense in this game, and Jones and the offensive coaches played musical chairs with the quarterbacks at odd times. But the Vols’ defense managed to get plenty of pressure against an out-matched UMass offensive line, and Tennessee held on for the victory.
Here are our takeaways from the Vols’ 17-13 win against the Minutemen.
Tennessee’s offense was disjointed and sloppy for essentially the entire game against UMass. Aside from a handful of big plays, the Vols’ running game and passing game were both inefficient.
On top of that, Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano both saw the field, but neither were put in strong positions to succeed in the second half.
Dormady looked like he was finding his stride in the second quarter, but the third quarter looked ugly, and Gaurantano was put in Dormady’s stead for a few drives. But Guarantano was never able to gain traction, and he finished just 2-of-5 for minus three yards and ran the ball twice for eight yards.
When Dormady had time, he wasn’t too bad. But his timing was thrown off several times, and he finished just 17-of-27 for 187 yards and a touchdown. He also fumbled the ball in the first half, and UMass recovered.
The Vols finished with just 319 offensive yards against a UMass defense that was allowing an average of 414.3 yards per game coming into this one. Tennessee totaled just 58 yards of offense in the second half.
Offensive Line Gets Beat
Tennessee’s offense was stopped at or behind line of scrimmage at least 12 times in this game. Against UMass.
The Vols’ offensive line got little to no push for the large majority of the game against an out-matched and out-talented UMass defensive front. The Vols finished with a mere 135 rushing yards against a defense that was allowing 187.3 yards per game on the ground.
None of the Vols’ quarterbacks were sacked in the game, but UMass finished with 12 tackles for loss in a game that Tennessee should’ve been able to dominate up front on offense.
Yes, Jashon Robertson was out with injury. But that’s still no excuse.
Brandon Johnson Breakout
The one bright side from the Vols’ uninspired win, aside from a usual good game from John Kelly, was sophomore receiver Brandon Johnson.
Johnson finished the game with seven catches for 123 yards, both career-highs for the sophomore. He was targeted most often over the middle on slant routes, and he ripped off a 66-yard reception in the second half that set the Vols up for a score.
Very little looked good for the Vols on offense in this game. But Brandon Johnson was a positive.
Defense Does Enough
The Vols’ offense looked inept, but Tennessee’s defense played sound football for most of the game. The defense got constant pressure against an overwhelmed UMass offensive line. Tennessee finished with 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks. They also only allowed 281 total yards in the game.
Tennessee’s defense didn’t force a turnover, but they rarely let UMass gain huge plays or capitalize on opportunities. The Vols’ defense did enough to carry a struggling Vols’ offense, and they held UMass’s offense to just three third down conversions on 14 attempts.
It was ugly. It was brutal to watch. But somehow Tennessee left Neyland Stadium with a win and now are preparing to take on Georgia in a pivotal SEC East match-up next Saturday.
Tennessee played one of their ugliest games under Butch Jones, but they still managed to find a win against UMass. The Vols will need to be much, much better if they want to defeat Georgia next weekend.