Tennessee use big first quarter to down South Carolina, 45-20

Tennessee Volunteers
Courtesy of Vol Football on Twitter.

The Tennessee Volunteers entered this game following an absolute stomping on the road in Columbus last weekend against the Missouri Tigers. The offense picked up right where the Vols left off, and scored 35 straight points — including an early 28-0 first quarter lead. Tennessee had many positives in this game despite a struggle in the second half.

The Tennessee offense keeps humming

Courtesy of Vol Football on Twitter.

Hendon Hooker once again proved he is the man at Tennessee this season. Hooker completed 17 of his 23 pass attempts with three touchdowns for 225 yards. Hooker also added a rushing touchdown to push his total to four on the day. Running back Tiyon Evans also rushed for 119 yards on 16 carries, including a 45-yard touchdown sprint. Tennessee’s offense scored the first 35 points of the game and showed just how much this Tennessee team has improved since last season.

The Vols defensive depth steps up

Courtesy of Vol football on Twitter.

Alabama transfer defensive back Brandon Turnage started the season as the 3rd-string safety on the depth chart. Turnage sat behind Theo Jackson and Daneiko Slaughter for the first five weeks of the 2021 season. However, the Alabama transfer got his opportunity due to injury and ran with it. Turnage finished with 14 tackles and 2 tackles for loss. The Vols defense also benefited from linebacker Aaron Beasley’s fumble recovery. All in all, the Vols defense did everything they needed to win despite having multiple 1st and 2nd string players out with injuries.

With this win, the Vols increase their record to 4-2 (2-1 SEC) on the year. Tennessee plays host to Ole Miss next weekend in a crucial game to Tennessee and Josh Heupel’s plans of long term. Will the Vols be able to keep rolling against Matt Corral and the Rebels? We shall see.

Tennessee vs South Carolina Preview: Vols look to continue momentum

Tennessee vs South Carolina
Courtesy of Vol Football on Twitter

Tennessee has played very well to start out the season. Especially if you consider the lack of talent and the situation that first-year head coach Josh Heupel obtained when he came to Tennessee early this year. The Vols are 3-2 (1-1) in the first five games of the Heupel era and have gotten better every game as the weeks go by. The consistent improvement from week to week is something refreshing for Vol fans. 

Tennessee fans have not seen a team get better from week to week in a very long time. Tennessee welcomes the South Carolina Gamecocks to Neyland Saturday to play the Vols fourth noon game of the season. What must Tennessee do vs South Carolina to walk away with a win?

Defense must attack a weak South Carolina offense.

Photo courtesy of Vol Football

Fans should expect to see linebackers Jay Blakely and Tyler Baron to have huge days on the defensive end. If you have watched South Carolina on offense this season, you would have seen the majority of their run plays are outside of the tackles. This is due to the lackluster performance from the Gamecocks’ offensive line so far in this season.

South Carolina comes into this game only rushing for 605 yards and with one touchdown. To give some comparison, the Vols had five rushing touchdowns in their blowout win on the road in Columbus last Saturday against the Tigers. Tennessee needs to win the trenches and it starts on the defensive end this Saturday.

The offense must continue to stay fast and aggressive.

Tennessee has moved faster than anyone in the country on offense so far in the 2021 season; a lot of that has to be accredited to the preparation from this coaching staff. Coach Heupel stressed last weekend just how important the final 48 hours leading up to kick-off have been. The synchronization on offense is crucial to the speed the Vols play with.

Furthermore, Senior red-shirt quarterback Hendon Hooker, has handled it nicely in his three and a half games for Tennessee. In fact, you could make a reasonable argument that UT is 4-1 if Hooker gets the start from the get go. Hooker has not turned the ball over in the past 3 games and has looked more composed than any Tennessee QB we’ve saw in the past five years.

The rushing attack, along with Hooker’s playmaking ability, produce a deadly combination for opposing defenses; expect big numbers from the Vols this Saturday against the Gamecocks.

Tennessee enters ‘Dark Mode.’

This isn’t necessarily a key to victory, but the Vols unveiled their new ‘Dark Mode’ jerseys on Wednesday much to the teams and (most of) the fanbase’s delight. Now whether or not you’re a traditionalist, or you don’t care what we wear (like myself), it’s clear to see that the day and age we are in that gimmicks matter. Checker Neyland, smokey greys, and now black uniforms are just a few examples of the Vols attempt at joining the notion.

It helps in recruiting and creates a buzz that simply would not be there. Josh Heupel is in the middle of a culture upheaval and has a lot of work to do to change the brand of Tennessee Football. The players love it, and Coach Heupel has a job to do both on and off the field. If Heupel wants to use uniforms to create excitement and boost recruitment, then I am all for it.

As Tennessee welcomes South Carolina to Neyland stadium this Saturday, the Vols should have zero trouble putting away the Gamecocks early in this ballgame. If Heupel wants to solidify growth and productivity, games like this on vs South Carolina are the ones Tennessee must win.

Tennessee wins vs Missouri on the road, 62-24.

Tennessee vs Missouri
Tiyon Evans celebrates his 3rd touchdown of the game. Photo courtesy of Vol Football on Twitter.

Tennessee picked up its first SEC and road win of the season under 1st year head coach Josh Heupel vs Missouri. Tennessee sprinted out to a 28-3 at the end of the first quarter and the Vols maintained momentum throughout the game.

The Tennessee rushing game takes off vs Missouri

Tennessee came into this game knowing exactly what Missouri’s defense brought to the table. Quite frankly, it wasn’t much. Missouri allowed over 250 yards of rushing per game coming into this game. The Vols capitalized on this and opened the run game early with running back Tiyon Evans. Evans had 3 rushing touchdowns in the first quarter alone, including a 92-yard sprint on the Vols 3rd scoring drive of the game. Tennessee coach Josh Heupel spoke intently regarding the quality of possessions that Tennessee needed to put together during this game. The guys in orange did just that early and often.

Hooker secures starting spot

Hendon Hooker runs late in the third. Photo courtesy of Vol Football on Twitter.

Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker proved once again he is the starting quarterback for this Vol football team. Hooker was 15/19 passing for 225 yards and 3 TDs to three different receivers. Hooker also added in 74 rushing yards and another score on the ground. With the QB position up for battle in previous weeks this fall, it’s clear that Hooker has secured that starting spot. Hooker was relieved of his duties late in the 4th quarter and is the presumable starter moving forward on the year.

Tennessee defense steps up

Jay Blakley attacks the Missouri offensive line in the 2nd quarter. Photo courtesy of Vol Football on Twitter.

The Tennessee defense played one of its best games of the season so far. The Vols picked off quarterback Connor Bazelak two times and converted both of them for touchdowns on the offensive end. Once again the rushing defense from the Vols showed out, limiting the Tigers to under 100 yards in the contest. Tennessee also limited RB Tyler Badie to 41 yards on 21 carries. Going into the game the job was presented to this defensive unit and the Vols stepped up in a big way.

As Tennessee moves forward with SEC play, it’s nice to see the Vols put up big points moving forward as well as controlling the tempo of the game from start to finish. The Vols come home to play South Carolina in Neyland stadium, Saturday Oct. 9th at 12:00pm.

Vols travel to Columbia to take on the Missouri Tigers.

by Paul Leatherman

Tiyon Evans looks to score vs Florida

by Paul Leatherman

Early on in the Heupel era; the Tennessee Volunteers have been beating themselves more than being out-manned in their two losses so far in the season. Coach Heupel has spoke to this problem with zero excuses. Heupel has stated many times that the team has to execute better, plain and simple. Whether that be the fault of the players or the coaching staff, it’s clear to see that the Vols need to win this game in Columbia for many reasons. Recruiting and continuing to win over this fan base will prove crucial for Heupel, and these are games you have to win to do so. So, what do the Vols need to do to split the road trip? It’s quite simple really.

Stop the running game.

Tyler Baron attacks Florida’s defensive line.

The Missouri Tigers have been able to generate yards and points consistently throughout in the young season. The tigers have rushed for 634 yards this season, 417 of these yards come from RB Tyler Badie. Badie is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and has scored 5 TD on the ground this season. Heupel has stressed this in his press conferences leading up to this game. When asked about Badie, coach Heupel stated,

“For them, offensively, everything kind of goes through that running back. Whether that’s the run game or him being heavily involved in the pass game, the guys (Badie) been dynamic, near top in the country in total yards and productivity, really good football player….”

Head Coach Josh Heupel on Missouri running back Tyler Badie

It’s clear to see that limited the Tigers’ run game will be crucial to a Tennessee win.

Take advantage of a struggling defense.

Whether or not Hendon Hooker is good to go for the Volunteers after suffering an apparent upper-body injury last week vs Florida, Tennessee’s offense should have a big day. Missouri’s defense has been abysmal so far through four games this season. The Tigers defense is allowing north of 450 yards per game and has not held an opponent under 20 points all season. Missouri has allowed 268 yards of rushing per game to opponents. This benefits the Vols heavily, especially if Hooker is a no-go. Joe Milton lll has struggled to throw the ball deep all season, and the Vols will need to lean on running backs Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small to carry the offensive load for Tennessee. The Vols are in great position for a big road win, which at this point in a season, where the scheduling gets worse before it gets better. It is crucial for Heupel to win games like this if he looks to be bowl eligible in year one.

It’s clear to see that the stars are aligning for the Vols to secure their first SEC win of the season against a lack-luster Missouri team. If the Vols defense can limit the running game and the offense can win the ground game, the Vols should walk out of Columbia with a comfortable win.

My prediction: Tennessee 45, Missouri 28.

11 Florida downs Tennessee 38-14 in the Swamp.

By Paul Leatherman

Tiyon Evans
Tiyon Evans making his way through defenders.

As many fans may have expected, the Florida Gators took care of business Saturday night in the swamp. However, the score of this game does not depict the effort and intensity that the Vols played with. Furthermore, the Vols actually had a 14-10 lead in the 2nd quarter with the ball. So what happened? Well, it’s a lot to unpack.

The depth problems

Tennessee has the 1st string talent to play with any of the top 25 teams night in and night out, but the Vols do not have the depth to bring in when their best players get exhausted. The Vols only trailed the Gators 17-14 in the swamp and were nearly tied if K Chase McGrath connects on his 39-yard field goal as the first half expired. However, the second half saw the boys in orange outscored 21-0. Now you have to give credit where it is due and tip your cap to Florida, but the Vols lack of depth on offense and defense killed them when Florida continued to repeatedly run the football. This lack of depth caused mental errors as well as physically not being able to make certain plays due to exhaustion. Safe to say, if Tennessee had just a little bit more depth on both sides. I think we are looking at a completely different ball game.

Penalties….. AGAIN

Now, coach Heupel talked all week long about playing a clean game and not shooting yourself in the foot, but it did not look like his team received the same message. Tennessee committed ten penalties for a total of eighty-five yards. On paper this doesn’t look like much, but the times these penalties came were costly for the Vols. Tennessee gave Florida two free first downs on 3rd and short situations for jumping before the snap. On both drives the Gators were able to capitalize and score touchdowns showing just how crucial discipline is to a football team. A clean game is all Vol fans can ask for when playing teams like Florida, Alabama and so on. These aren’t games you necessarily should win, but when your in the game and lose the momentum because of self-inflicted penalties and mistakes. It is extremely frustrating to everyone involved. Moving forward, the Vols are going to have to fix these mistakes as SEC play is just getting underway.

Positives:

Alontae Taylor celebrates after forcing a Florida fumble

On paper the Vols got beat down pretty bad 38-14. Anytime you lose to a rival by 20+ points there is always going to be many negatives. However, Tennessee showed strides being made game by game that we haven’t seen from a Tennessee team in quite sometime. Offensively in the first half, Tennessee hit on the deep balls that they had been missing in the previous weeks. Also, it looks like Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker has emerged as QB1 for the Vols and has eliminated both Joe Millton and Harrison Bailey (if were being honest, he wasn’t really in the race) from contention at taking the spot. Hooker couldn’t get it going in the passing game, but the red-shirt Senior completed 13 passes for 221 yards and 2 touchdowns including a 75-yard bomb to Javonta Payton mid-way through the second quarter. Running back Tiyon Evans also took a screen pass 47 yards to the end-zone to respond to an early touchdown drive from the Gators. Defensively, the Vols held the Gators to 17 points in the first half and Senior CB Alontae Taylor forced a fumble with just over a minute to stop Florida from extending their lead to double digits before the half.

All in all, the Vols played the first half like they were there to win. Big drops on crucial plays and lack of depth killed Tennessee’s chances of pulling off the upset on the road. Tennessee falls to 2-2 and 0-1 in SEC play. The Vols head to Missouri in what will be a crucial game for Heupel and company. This game is very winnable and can add a boost of confidence for the Vols moving forward in SEC play.