Five Quick Takeaways: Tennessee Gets Revenge, Beats Pitt In Overtime

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    Photo via Tennessee Athletics

    PITTSBURGH, PA — Tennessee played far from its best football in the Steel City Saturday. The Vols did enough, however, to defeat Pitt, 34-27, in overtime.

    Five quick takeaways from a thrilling— and excruciating— win.

    Pitt Jumps On Tennessee Early

    Tennessee was one of the best first quarter teams in the country a season and that showed up in its, 41-34, loss a year ago to Pitt.

    The Vols got off to as poor as a start imaginable in round two of the Johnny Majors Classic.

    Tennessee received the opening kick and went three-and-out. After the Vols’ defense held Pitt to a field goal inside the red zone, it was another quick three-and-out including an easy missed throw by Hendon Hooker and a missed blitz assignment on third down.

    Pitt running back Israel Abanikanda ripped off a 76-yard touchdown run on the first play of the following drive and Pitt led, 10-0, before Tennessee recorded its first first down.

    Tennessee’s next drive would stall out across midfield as the Vols turned it over on downs. Trevon Flowers intercepted a Kedon Slovis pass in the end zone to stop the bleeding, but it was a poor start for the Vols in the Steel City.

    A Game Changing Tyler Baron Play To End The Half

    Pitt took over at its own 37-yard line with no timeouts and 21 seconds left in the first half. After the Panthers sent an all out blitz on the Tennessee punt the play before — leaving no one back to field the punt — it seemed like the Panthers would be content taking things to halftime.

    Tennessee led, 21-17, but Pitt would receive the ball to open the second half and the second quarter had been unkind to the Panthers.

    Instead Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi put the ball in Kedon Slovis hands. The Vols secondary provided stellar coverage and Tyler Baron made the play of his career. The junior pass rusher beat his man off the end, sacked Slovis and knocked the ball out.

    It was Tennessee’s first sack of the season and, more importantly, Omari Thomas jumped on it to give the Vols the ball at Pitt’s 28-yard line.

    The sack also proved to be Slovis last play as he exited the game with an injury.

    It looked all for naught when M.J. Devonshire intercepted Hooker the following play in the end zone. Instead, the play was overturned as Devonshire came down out of bounds.

    Jaylen Wright ran for eight yards the next play and Chase McGrath booted in a 37-yard field goal to end the half.

    After an abysmal start, Tennessee led by a touchdown and extra point at the break.

    More From RTI: Watch Bru McCoy’s First Tennessee Touchdown

    Tennessee’s Offense Shoots Itself In Foot In Third Quarter

    Pitt back up quarterback Nick Patti struggled badly for much of the second half and particularly in the third quarter

    Patti’s struggles gave Tennessee’s high powered offense a fantastic chance to step on Pitt’s neck and take control of the game.

    The Vols couldn’t get out of their own way.

    On Tennessee’s first drive of the second half an offensive pass interference put the Vols in second-and-31 and derailed the drive.

    Tennessee took over in Pitt’s territory on its second drive of the half. Hooker dropped a beautiful deep ball in Tillman’s lap in the end zone but the star receiver couldn’t haul it in. Three plays later Pitt blocked a Tennessee punt and took over in the red zone.

    The Vols defense answered the bell and Ben Sauls missed a 34-yard field goal.

    Tennessee wasted another prime opportunity as Jaylen Wright fumbled in Volunteer territory.

    Pitt finally took advantage, driving into the Vols’ red zone before settling for a field goal.

    Pitt’s Offense Struggles After Slovis’ Exit

    Tennessee is very fortunate Kedon Slovis was unable to play in the second half. Pitt’s offense looked like a shell of itself in the second half with Nick Patti under center.

    Patti completed just four-of-10 passes for 29 yards into the early fourth quarter. Despite two short field, Pitt mustered just three points as its defense kept them within striking distance.

    Pitt’s offense wasn’t much better in the fourth quarter but they did enough. After a muffed Tennessee punt, Pitt went 43 yards in nine plays to tie the game.

    The Panthers converted a pair of fourth downs including fourth-and-goal at the five-yard line when Patti made a great throw under pressure and Jared Wayne made a contested catch.

    Despite trailing by seven at halftime and totaling just 129 second half yards, Pitt forced the game to overtime.

    Cedric Tillman Makes The Winning Play

    It’s crazy to say, but there was a lot more out there for Cedric Tillman in a game he caught nine passes for 163 yards and a touchdown.

    Tillman dropped the already mentioned touchdown and Hooker overshot him on what would have been a touchdown in the first half. The star receiver also had a drop over the middle.

    But with Tennessee’s offense reeling entering overtime, Tillman made a winning play. The 6-foot-3 receiver boxed out his defender on an under throw and hauled in a 28-yard go-ahead touchdown.

    Pitt still had its overtime possession but when Patti’s fourth-and-goal pass fell incomplete, the Vols exited with a victory.

    Ryan Schumpert is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. Ryan spent three years with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program before joining RTI. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.