Tennessee football made quick work of UConn on Saturday afternoon, scoring on the second play from scrimmage before cruising to a 59-3 victory.
Here’s four quick takeaways on the Vols’ homecoming victory.
Milton, Offense Continues To Cruise
One of my keys for Tennessee to leave the UConn game feeling good was for Joe Milton III and the Vols’ offense to continue their success in recent weeks.
That’s exactly what happened, with some help from UConn’s poor defense. Milton was in for six drives against UConn. Tennessee’s offense scored four touchdowns on those drives with one punt and a failed Hail Mary attempt on a drive they went 46 yards on three plays beforehand.
Milton performed well again, completing 11-of-14 passes for 254 yards yards and two touchdowns. The Vols offense created a number of big play in the first half and Milton got in on the fun with a 60-yard touchdown pass to Ramel Keyton and an 82-yard touchdown pass to Squirrel White.
The super senior quarterback added a six yard rushing touchdown too.
Having success against UConn was no radical achievement but the Vols’ first team offense was crisp and executed at a high-level. Exactly what you’d want to see after two strong performances.
Secondary Struggles Continue
It was an overall strong game for Tennessee’s defense but the Vols’ secondary looked susceptible again. Tennessee’s pass defense had its worst game of the season a week ago against Kentucky after Kamal Hadden underwent season ending shoulder surgery.
UConn entered the November matchup ranking 110th nationally with 181 passing yards per game. In the first half alone, Huskies’ QB Ta’Quan Roberson completed 15-of-22 passes for 177 yards.
Thirty four of those yards came on a trick play and Roberson made a number of difficult throws that I doubt he typically makes. Still, it was a poor showing from the Vols’ defense that gave up 221 yards through the air against UConn.
The positive was the ability to force turnovers which I’ll touch on further in moment.
It didn’t matter against the overmatched Huskies but ahead of next week’s road trip to Missouri to face one of the SEC’s best passing offenses, the performance wasn’t overly encouraging.
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Defensive Touchdowns Galore
While Tennessee’s pass defense had some struggles, the Vols’ defense made program history against the Huskies. Tennessee scored three defensive touchdowns for this first time in program history (stats have been tracked since the 1949 season).
The first came late in the first half when UConn through a screen pass. Corner Gabe Jeudy-Lally forced the fumble and Tyler Baron picked it up and ran it 24 yards for a touchdown.
The success continued early in the second half as Tennessee’s pass rush started getting more pressure. Kurrot Garland pressured Roberson on the second play of the second half and the Huskies’ quarterback hit Jaylen McCollough right between the numbers. The Vols’ streaking safety strolled 30 yards into the end zone untouched for his first career touchdown.
It took Tennessee’s defense just six more plays to find the end zone. Facing third-and-nine, James Pearce Jr. pressure Roberson and Aaron Beasley stepped in front of his pass for an interception. Beasley won the foot race with Roberson to the corner for the touchdown.
On a mostly uneventful game, Tennessee’s defense made some program history.
Nico Iamaleava Gets Second Half Action
With Tennessee leading by 46 points early in the second half, Nico Iamaleava came in at quarterback for the Vols’ first drive of the second half.
It wasn’t the first time we’ve watched the talented freshman but it was the best he’s looked.
The former five-star wasn’t perfect but he performed very well, completing five-of-nine passes for 86 yards and his first career touchdown.
What Iamaleava did best was extend plays with his legs and then throw the ball accurately down the field. The Vols’ converted three third downs on plays off script including a 28-yard pass to Kaleb Webb, a 14-yard pass to McCallan Castles and a 25-yard scramble.
Iamaleava only got two drives before Tennessee coach Josh Heupel turned to his third and fourth string quarterbacks Gaston Moore and then Navy Shuler