The Tennessee Volunteers were given a major test in their opening game by the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Nine years to the day of the program’s shocking upset win over the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Appalachian State seemed destined to repeat history as they carried a 13-3 lead at one point.
Despite that though, a missed extra point would haunt the Mountaineers. The Volunteers would strike back to tie the game, due in large on a long touchdown throw from Josh Dobbs to Josh Malone. Jalen Hurd, who would collapse on the ball in the end zone after Dobbs fumbled it in overtime off a huge hit to the ribs, would amass 110 yards on 28 carries on the night with one reception as well.
The defense kept Tennessee in the game even though one of its premier players departed early. Jalen Reeves-Maybin was ejected from the game after being tagged for targeting in the first quarter. Despite his absence, the Volunteers held it together on their end for the most part, especially so through the air. Cameron Sutton provided the goods, most notably on this interception.
Here’s what we learned from this encounter.
1. Appalachian State is for real: Much will be made about Tennessee’s struggles and to be fair, they struggled mightily in this contest. Make no mistake about it. However the Mountaineers’ efforts in Knoxville should be commended. They are likely the Sun Belt favorites for a reason and with the likes of Marcus Cox carrying the ball for them and a stout defense, they are certainly not to be messed with.
2. The Volunteers may have been overvalued: It’s Week 1 and we won’t dish out too many hot takes. But, this kind of performance in a game where Tennessee was nearly a three-touchdown favorite is a bit concerning. The offense remained stagnant, especially Dobbs under center, and while the defense looked good if not great at times, Tennessee should feel lucky that they were able to squeak out the overtime win tonight. That’s not the kind of feeling you’d like to have when you haven’t hit conference play yet though. Especially to a team that you’re that big of a favorite over.
3. Joshua Dobbs, also, might be overvalued: The same struggles that Dobbs had a year ago resurfaced again this year. He wasn’t throwing deep much, not many play calls had him go deep, and he had a completion percentage just a hair over 50 percent with a YPA of 6.6. Not the way that you want to start a season in which you’re being considered at an All-SEC level and a darkhorse candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Dobbs could very well throw for multiple touchdowns the next time he goes out on the field, but his first performance of the year raises a few eyebrows and questions. Not in a positive manner either.