Game Balls: Tennessee 17, UMass 13

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    It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t even good. But the Vols found a way to win against a winless UMass team on Saturday, edging out the Minutemen 17-13 in Neyland Stadium.

    Tennessee’s offense rarely clicked, and they managed to total just 319 yards on offense and averaged only 4.5 yards per play. The Vols turned the ball over once and converted just 38.9 percent of their third downs.

    The defense fared better against UMass, but that’s what they were supposed to do. They did their job. The offense didn’t, and it’s why Tennessee was lucky to come out of Saturday’s noon snoozer with a win.

    Despite the poor overall team performance, some individuals stepped up and had solid days. And those players earned our game balls for being the best on their side of the ball.

    Here are our game balls for the Vols’ Week 4 victory over UMass.

    Offense – Brandon Johnson, WR

    Tennessee’s offense struggled time and again to be efficient on Saturday despite playing one of the worst defenses they’ll play this season. But one player stood out among the rest for his performance in the game, and that was sophomore Brandon Johnson.

    Johnson came into Saturday’s game with 19 career receptions and 175 yards. On Saturday, the sophomore set career-highs in both catches and yards, hauling in seven receptions for 123 yards. He didn’t catch a touchdown, but he pulled off the longest play of the game and thus far the longest play of Tennessee’s season when he caught a pass over the middle and ran it for 66 yards deep into UMass territory.

    There wasn’t much to smile about on Saturday, but Johnson’s performance was definitely one thing Vol fans can feel good about.

    Defense – Quart’e Sapp, LB

    Quart’e Sapp made his first career start on Saturday, and he didn’t look overwhelmed in the slightest. Granted, Tennessee was playing UMass, a winless FBS program, but Sapp remained poised and made several good tackles in his first ever start as a Vol.

    Sapp finished the day with a team-high nine tackles, and that total was also his career high. He surpassed his previous high of seven tackles that he had just set the previous week against Florida.

    The Vols need help at linebacker now that both of their starters from the preseason are out. And the redshirt sophomore looks ready to fill in.

    Special Teams – Trevor Daniel, P

    Once again, Tennessee’s special teams didn’t really look all that special in this game. The overall performance wasn’t nearly as bad as it was against Florida, but it was still far from an impressive game. But punter Trevor Daniel still managed to have a solid game, adding to his résumé for a potential Ray Guy Award this season.

    Daniel was forced to punt eight times because of how badly the Vols’ offense struggled, and he helped flip the field on almost all of those. Daniel averaged 48.9 yards per punt and half of his punts traveled over 50 yards. He also had half of his punts downed inside the 20-yard line.