Brent Cimaglia returned to form and was perfect, nailing a 49-yard field goal to end the first half and connected on a chip-shot field goal in the third quarter. Joe Doyle consistently helped flip the field on his punts, delivering four punts for 46.2 yards a punt. Two of his punts were downed inside the 20. UT also bottled up any returns Mississippi State tried, but Paxton Brooks’ kick-offs usually went out of bounds. Marquez Callaway even had a punt return that helped steal some yardage for the Vols, pulling off a 13-yard return.
The biggest knock on the group and why this isn’t a straight up “A” is because of the lackluster return by Ty Chandler and the penalty that was called on that return that backed Tennessee up to their own nine-yard-line late in the fourth quarter. The Vols’ offense ended up digging out of that hole and put together the game-clinching touchdown drive, but that was an awful sequence.
I thought Tennessee was excellent in the special teams phase of the game. Winning this phase and the field position battle went a long way to the Vols pulling off the win. Brent Cimaglia was back to being automatic, making a 49 and 22-yard field goal. Joe Doyle was also tremendous, downing two punts inside the 20-yard line. So was Paxton Brooks, who sent three of his four kick-offs through the end zone.
In the return game, Callaway had one return for 13 yards, doing exactly what he’s taught to do — pick up the equivalent of a first down. Chandler also got the job done on his return. It wasn’t sexy, but Mississippi State did a great job of executing a kick that pinned Tennessee in the corner. Chandler was able to pick it up and get out of bounds before the Bulldogs were able to get down the field and fall on the ball.