That much was evident after the Vols only defeated UMass 17-13. In a game where the Vols were favored big and projected to win by roughly 23 points, UT could only muster up a four-point win. Wins are wins and they all count the same. But it’s hard to feel optimistic after this result on Saturday.
Here’s what we learned:
The Vols run game had a bit of a rough go
While the yardage total will look good (139), it’s a bit concerning that they only averaged 3.5 yards per carry. Tennessee’s run game had been their strength so far this year. Their Rushing Success Rate ranks 14th in the country heading into Saturday, but one might suspect that will take a hit after Saturday’s outing.
UMass’ defense had been pretty solid but not spectacular. An outing like this figures to be concerning as they head on to tougher defenses and competition this season. They’ll need to bounce back and hope that this is just an anomaly.
A step forward, though, in run defense
The Volunteers only allowed an average of 3.9 yards per carry on Saturday. While UMass allowed 144 yards, the fact that they ran the ball 37 times has more to do with that than how many yards they chunked together. Defensively, the Vols had been something of a sieve against the run. They held it together on big plays, but they ranked 123rd in Rush Success Rate, Stuff Rate and Opportunity Rate.
They’ll likely see a boost in those rankings going forward this week. If nothing else, this was a confidence booster in a game that didn’t feature, well, many opportunities for that.
Trouble may very well be lying ahead
The Vols have to play both Georgia and Alabama in two of their next three games. They’ll have to travel to Tuscaloosa on October 21st, and that doesn’t figure to be a fun time right now. UGA presents obvious problems with a dynamic run game and a defense that’s stingy as all hell.
With an 0-1 mark in SEC play, the Vols, if they fall to 1-2 in this stretch with South Carolina thrown in there too, could be facing 1-3 in league play in the face by October 28th. That may be too deep a hole to dig themselves out of. It also might make the future that much more uncertain in Knoxville.