The Tennessee Volunteers narrowly avoided an upset Saturday in Neyland Stadium, defeating the Ohio Bobcats 28-19. After a rocky performance, what grade did each position group earn?
It was a decent day for quarterback Josh Dobbs, all things considered. The senior quarterback threw for 203 yards and two touchdowns on the day, adding 59 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Dobbs’ performance was not helped by his offensive line up front. He was constantly pressured and rarely had any time to throw in the pocket. A few blatant drops from Preston Williams, one being intercepted, didn’t help his cause either. Dobbs did miss some open receivers on a play or two, but all in all, it was a pretty good day under center.
Tennessee fans everywhere had been wondering why Alvin Kamara hadn’t been getting more touches through the first two games. Against Ohio, Kamara had 11 carries for 67 yards on the ground behind an offensive line that wasn’t effective in run blocking. Kamara’s counterpart, Jalen Hurd, had 15 carries on the day for 61 yards. Each of the running backs for Tennessee had to grind out tough yards Saturday afternoon. It was a solid outing for the Vols backfield against Ohio, considering the lack of push from the offensive line.
Wide receivers and tight ends
Josh Malone continues to emerge as Josh Dobbs’ favorite target this season. Malone had two touchdown receptions on Saturday, to bring his total to four on the season. Outside of Malone, the rest of the group had a pretty rough day. Preston Williams had two major drops, one of which led to a deflected interception for the Bobcats, and Ethan Wolf dropped a would-be touchdown on the first drive. If it wasn’t for the solid play of Josh Malone, it would have been a horrible day for the receivers.
It is always said that the game of football is won upfront. Tennessee’s offensive line play has proven that point throughout the season. Josh Dobbs was under constant pressure and the running game had to grind out tough yards against an Ohio defense that gave up 56 points to Texas State two weeks ago. Junior Coleman Thomas was once again a weak-link upfront, despite being moved from center over to right tackle on Saturday. The offensive line must be much better against Florida for the Vols to handle the Gator defense.
It was a game defined by injuries for the Volunteer defense on Saturday afternoon. The defensive line was the group that stayed the healthiest throughout the game, and their impact was big late in the contest. Ohio only had 88 yards on the ground and when quarterback Greg Windham dropped back to pass, he was constantly under pressure from the Tennessee defensive line. Jonathan Kongbo and Derek Barnett were constantly pressuring the quarterback, coming up with two big hurries late in the game.
The war of attrition that the Volunteers have had on defense so far this season has been felt the most at the linebacker position. Darren Kirkland Jr. was out of Saturday’s game against Ohio with a high ankle sprain, so the much maligned Colton Jumper stepped in to start in his place. Jumper, while looking a step slower than the rest of the defense at times, had a pretty solid outing on the day. Jalen Reeves-Maybin went down with an injury in the second quarter, creating another opportunity for Cortez McDowell to fill in. The linebackers made a solid contribution to stopping the run Saturday, only allowing 88 yards on the ground.
If there was weak spot in the defense, it was in the secondary. All-American Cam Sutton went down with an ankle injury early in the first quarter, and the unit certainly missed his presence. Emmanuel Moseley was picked on all day by the Ohio quarterback. Windham finished with 230 yards passing and a touchdown on the day. Despite issues in their coverage, the secondary had some costly penalties that allowed Ohio to continue drives. And on Ohio’s lone touchdown of the game, they capitalized on a blown coverage from the Volunteers.
As bad as the offensive line was today, the special teams may have been even worse. Aaron Medley only attempted one field goal on the afternoon, but it didn’t even cross the goal line. Micah Abernathy and Alvin Kamara both almost fumbled to the Bobcats on returns. Evan Berry had an impressive kick return out to midfield brought back due to a penalty. And Trevor Daniel, who is normally big for the Vols, only averaged 39.3 yards on his punts today. It was not a good afternoon for Tennessee’s special teams.
Edited by Dalton King
Featured image by Craig Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics