Recap: Tennessee Outlasts UMass 17-13

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    Photo Credit: Will Boling/RTI

    Tennessee (3-1) edged out UMass (0-5) for a 17-13 win on Saturday in an ugly and uninspired performance.

    Neither offense ever had any momentum, especially in the second half for the Vols.

    Tennessee’s offense struggled for the entire game. It didn’t matter who the quarterback was, the Vols were inconsistent offensively. Here’s how it happened.

    UT went under center on the second play of the game, and John Kelly carried for a gain of eight. The Vols would go three-and-out on their first possession. Marquez Callaway attempted a one handed catch, but Dormady’s throw was just a bit too high. He had time to throw, just sailed it too high on a crossing pattern over the middle.

    We did have a Shaq Wiggins sighting on the defensive first drive. He played for the majority of the first half alongside Justin Martin.

    For the fifth time this season, Dormady turned the ball over on third down. That gave UMass a good opportunity to take the lead in the first quarter. But the Minutemen never took advantage.

    He would’ve had the first down, but Jesse Monteiro put his helmet right on the ball. Credit Dormady for keeping it, but he just couldn’t execute.

    Tennessee went to Kelly on third down out of the shotgun look. The Vols move the chains by a few inches deep in their own territory. That was just the second first down of the game for UT.

    But the drive would stall. Dormady threw off his back foot to Ethan Wolf on a wheel route, but it was a poorly thrown ball. Dormady was 2-for-5 on passes with targets more than five yards from the line of scrimmage at that point.

    Tennessee ended the first quarter with a missed 45-yard field goal attempt from Brent Cimaglia.

    The stats at the end of the first quarter were…not pretty.

    The Vols have still yet to score a point in the first quarter this season against an FBS opponent.

    Kahlil McKenzie made a nice play on first down to hit Ford in the backfield, and he would follow that up later with a sack.

    Tennessee’s drive stalled again following an offensive pass interference call on Josh Smith. But he wasn’t the intended receiver. Brandon Johnson would’ve moved the chains up to the 25 yard line, but instead UT goes back into its own territory.

    Alexis Johnson records his first career sack on third down. That was the 25th sack UMass had allowed this season, giving UT the ball back once again.

    And the Vols finally took advantage. John Kelly bounces a run to the outside here just one play after a 66-yard Brandon Johnson catch and run.

    But UMass would find its way in the redzone with ease. After two big plays, Andrew Ford was almost picked off in the endzone by Nigel Warrior. He found ways to extend plays, rolling to his left on the majority of this throws.

    It was backup quarterback Ross Comis who carried to the outside for an easy touchdown run. He got the edge on the read option and went untouched into the endzone.

    The extra point was no good, wide to the left.

    On the next drive, John Kelly lost five yards on a first down screen pass, but then gains 27 on a draw play. He needed more touches, especially in the first half so he could be on the bench in the fourth quarter. In the first half, the screen pass was just 1-for-2 for -5 yards for the Vols’ offense.

    Tennessee punched the ball in on third down thanks to the best pass of the day by Dormady. He threw a beautiful pass to the corner, finding Tyler Byrd for his first catch of the game.

    Tennessee led 14-6 at halftime, thanks to an impressive performance by Brandon Johnson. He had five catches for 108 yards. Four of those balls were caught over the middle within five yards of the line of scrimmage. He was the only consistent target for Dormady in the first half. Marquez Callaway was only targeted once.

    Tennessee’s stuff rate (the percentage of runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage) was an abysmal 30% in the first half. UT’s stuff rate was just 16.6% last season.

    Halftime stats:

    Tennessee trotted out the same starting defensive unit to open the second half. Shaq Wiggins played a large portion of the snaps alongside Justin Martin at cornerback. Tennessee recorded its third sack of the game on the opening drive. This time it was Kendal Vickers, forcing a three-and-out. UT’s defensive tackles had the Vols’ first three sacks today.

    After a bad punt by the Minutemen a few drives later, Tennessee drove 18 yards in 6 plays, capped off by a 40-yard field goal by Aaron Medley.

    UMass took over at its own 25 after the touchback. They started to rely more on the short passing game, getting the ball out quickly on a screen pass for nine yards on the first play. With so much pressure up the middle from the defensive line, the Minutemen tried to find ways to get out on the perimeter.

    Andrew Ford alluded a rush from Kyle Phillips, who was untouched in pursuit of the quarterback, and threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Sadiq Palmer. This time the extra point was good.

    It took 10 plays, 75 yards in 4:41 for the Minutemen to answer the Vols’ only score of the second half.

    Tennessee needed to make a change at quarterback. Dormady only had one turnover today, but he wasn’t making the big plays. The vast majority of his yards had been gained over the middle on easy slants. And that’s because Johnson was beating his man over the middle every time.

    Jarrett Guarantano would then take over at quarterback. He wasn’t able to do much, due in large part to a dropped ball over the middle by Brandon Johnson that would’ve been a big game.

    The Vols go three-and-out. Guarantano had good protection on his first drive. There just wasn’t anybody open.

    Guarantano finished the game 2-for-5 for -3 yards and only eight rushing yards.

    But the stats were maybe a bit misleading for Dormady as well. He was 6-for-7 on passes over the middle thanks to Johnson’s speed against a poor secondary. He made five of those plays, with Wolf making the other catch over the middle. But Tennessee is still struggling on the perimeter. Dormady was 10-for-19 on passes outside the hashes.

    At the end of the day, it was Tennessee’s defense that came up big.

    Jonathan Kongbo made a couple plays that kept UMass from taking the lead. The Minutemen, while in the game for the duration of the day, never led.

    After a scoreless fourth quarter, the Vols come away with the win. The final stats weren’t too pretty.

    Tennessee’s stuff rate wasn’t pretty. The Vols were stopped at or behind the line of 10 of their 29 carries, which gives them a 26% stuff rate. Without Jashon Robertson anchoring the middle of the line, UT struggled up front against a bad run defense.

    And the passing charts weren’t too great either.