Numbers Never Lie: Tennessee Runs Through Bowling Green in Season Debut

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    Tennessee Bowling Green

    Tennessee QB Joe Milton Against Bowling Green. Photo via Tennessee Athletics.

    As they typically do, the numbers from Thursday’s college football matchup between Tennessee and Bowling Green tell a fascinating story. Overall, Tennessee’s statistics during game one gave a good idea of what Tennessee may bring to the table this season. Even after just one game under head coach Josh Heupel, Tennessee looks like a completely different team than the team that left the field in 2020.

    The game between Tennessee and Bowling Green, which officially began the Heupel Era in Tennessee, took place in Neyland Stadium. The official attendance at the game was 84,314.

    Below are a collection of interesting statistics from Thursday’s opener in Knoxville.

    Tennessee’s Offensive Drives

    In total, Tennessee had 13 drives in their game against Bowling Green. Out of those 13 drives, two of them were three-and-outs. Meanwhile, seven of the drives went for six plays or less. Five out of the eight second-half drives also went for six plays or less. In addition, Tennessee was 7-of-15 on third down in the game.

    Tennessee did not win the time of possession battle, but their game plan didn’t seem to have that goal. On Tennessee’s opening drive, the Vols’ offense averaged 13 seconds in between plays. The opening drive, which did end up as a touchdown, took 11 plays and went for 67 yards. Tennessee had about as perfect a game plan as they could have hoped for on their first two possessions. The offense moved with a sense of urgency and efficiency down the field.

    Tennessee went with an exclusive hurry-up offense that featured three receivers, a tight end, and a running back on their opening possession. Tennessee went back and forth between two formations on the drive. One had two receivers to the left with the tight end between the offensive line and quarterback. The other formation just saw the tight end split out to the slot on the right side.

    Tennessee began somewhat balanced offensively against Bowling Green but seemingly abandoned the passing game after the first quarter.

    In the first quarter, Tennessee’s offense had 17 rushes (64 yds) and 11 pass attempts (95 yds). Then, in the second quarter, the Vols offense put out three rushing attempts for three yards and four passes for five yards. Meanwhile, in the third quarter, Tennessee really made the complete shift to the run game. 

    In the third quarter, Tennessee had 21 rushes (159 yds) and four passes (0 yds). And lastly, in the fourth quarter, the Tennessee offense went with 23 rushing attempts (100 yds) and five passes (45 yds).

    Tennessee Individual Offense vs Bowling Green

    Tennessee RB Tiyon Evans. Photo By Caleb Jones/Tennessee Athletics

    Tiyon Evans was arguably the most electric player offensively for Tennessee against Bowling Green. The JUCO transfer tied as the team leader in rush yards with sophomore Jabari Small. Both players finished the game with 116 rush yards, although Small had 22 attempts compared to Evans’ 16.

    Evans also had the two longest Tennessee runs on the night, going for 21 yards and 19 yards, respectively.

    Meanwhile, Jalin Hyatt led Tennessee in receptions and yards. The sophomore wide receiver ended the game with four catches for 62 yards. 

    Redshirt junior Cedric Tillman had Tennessee’s only touchdown reception, which came in the fourth quarter.

    Quarterback Joe Milton III, in his Tennessee debut, ended the game with 140 yards in the air on 11-of-23 passing. He also added in 44 yards on the ground along with two touchdowns.

    Tennessee Defense vs Bowling Green

    Tennessee’s defense created havoc all night, primarily thanks to a good showing from the defensive line. The line didn’t account for a large number of total tackles (7), but their presence was felt with their intense rush all night long.

    Theo Jackson was Tennessee’s leader in tackles amongst the defensive backs. Jackson had 11 total tackles in the game. Meanwhile, transfer players Da’Jon Terry and Caleb Tremblay led the defensive line in tackles with two each. And lastly, William Mohan and Roman Harrison led Tennessee’s linebackers in tackles with four each.

    Tennessee defensive lineman Tyler Baron and Terry both came away with a sack on the night as well.

    The Tennessee defense held Bowling Green to 14.3 percent on third downs, converting only two of their 14 opportunities. In addition, the Vols held the Falcons to just 1.5 yards per rush in the game.

    Tennessee Team Statistics

    In total, the Tennessee offense averaged 5.1 yards per rush against Bowling Green on Thursday. Led by Milton, the Vols also averaged 12.1 yards per completion through the air.

    However, one negative during the game was Tennessee’s turnover battle. The Vols gave up two turnovers in the form of fumbles, while Bowling Green did not turn over the ball during the game. Although Tennessee may not have won the turnover battle, they did win the penalty battle.

    Tennessee was penalized five times during the game compared to Bowling Green’s 11 penalties.

    Tennessee ended the game with 471 total yards. In addition, 145 of those yards came through the air, while 326 yards came through the ground game.

    Tennessee defeated Bowling Green by a score of 38-6 on Thursday, Sept. 2. The Vols will be back in Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 11, in a game against Pittsburgh at noon ET.

    Photos courtesy of Tennessee Athletics Communications.

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.