“That Appalachian State game was just a fluke!”
“Tennessee was just rusty to open the season!”
“See, they righted the ship against the Hokies!”
All of these cries that reverberated for miles outside of Knoxville were embraced by Volunteers fans hoping to make some sense out of the dichotomous first two performances that Tennessee put on.
Unfortunately for Vols fans, today’s game against the Ohio Bobcats had shades of Appalachian State all over it.
It took until the fourth quarter for Tennessee to finally pull away from Ohio and win the game, but even then it felt incredibly close. It felt like Tennessee didn’t really have control of the outcome until that final whistle was blown.
Regardless, Tennessee got the win after trading blows with Ohio all throughout the first three quarters, countering grueling Ohio drives with grueling drives of their own. In the end, Josh Dobbs ended up making the difference (something we’d expect from one of the SEC’s best quarterbacks), throwing for over 200 yards and rushing for nearly 60. Add that to his 3 total touchdowns, and you’ve got a game-winning performance.
So, after that slug-it-out battle, what’d we learn?
1. Injuries are hurting Tennessee
To be fair to Tennessee, the blame for today’s performance can’t be completely rested on poor gameplay. The Volunteers have been playing with a depleted roster, and it was clear that they would be without a few players for today’s game.
Not only was that the case, but the Volunteers also saw a few in-game injuries that featured some of the team’s best players, including CB Cameron Sutton (he injured his right ankle) and LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Below is a chart that was put on screen during the SEC Network broadcast of today’s game; it highlighted just how dire the injury situation is for Tennessee. Here’s hoping those injuries aren’t too serious, as they could pose some tremendous problems for Tennessee just as SEC play is about to begin.
2. Vols continue to underwhelm
Injuries aside, the fact remains that Tennessee is simply not performing as expected. It seemed as if this would finally be the year that Butch Jones could get this team to an SEC East title, if not something better. While that certainly isn’t out of the question, it’s appearing less likely as teams like Florida continue to look better than initially thought.
Tennessee should have won today’s game, but it really should not have been as much of a challenge as it was. The Volunteers let the tempo get dictated by Frank Solich’s squad, and they had many lucky breaks as they continually recovered their own team’s fumbles. They got the win though, so all of that is just stuff to improve on rather to vilify.
3. Get ready for Florida
With the exception of a November matchup with Tennessee Tech, non-conference play for the Volunteers has come to an end. While the record may reflect an undefeated start to the season, the gameplay itself tells a different story.
With Florida coming to Knoxville next week, fans will get to see how this Tennessee team that has turned in mixed performances so far fares against an SEC opponent. Tennessee is going to need to get healthy and well-prepared—and fast—if they want a chance to beat Florida and their potent defense.