Five things Tennessee needs to do to beat Tennessee Tech

What keys should Tennessee focus on in order to avoid a second-straight upset loss?

The UT rifleman mascot waves a "Power T" flag during Tennessee's football game on Nov. 3, 2012. Photo obtained via creativecommons.org, no changes made.

Score early

Tennessee has been a second half team so far this season; the Vols have dealt with a first-half deficit in all but one game this season and have been outscored by 59 points in the first quarter.  Bob Shoop and the Volunteer defense have managed to adjust during the game — resulting in a few furious comebacks — but the luck has seemingly run out, resulting in a three-game losing streak.  Tennessee was able to complete comeback wins against Appalachian State, Georgia and FloridaThe Vols need to make sure Tennessee Tech does not gain any confidence by putting the game to bed early.

Get the running game going

With injuries and transfers plaguing Tennessee, it will be important for the Vols to get the running game going.  On Monday, Butch Jones confirmed that Jalen Hurd is leaving the program.  Alvin Kamara was sidelined after the Alabama game with a knee injury.  John Kelly has stepped into the starting running back role, and he has played well so far.  If Tennessee can get the ball moving on the ground, the Vols will be able to manage the game at their own pace.  

Don’t let injuries derail the team any further

Tennessee has been stricken with injuries at seemingly every position.  If the Vols want to win, they must find a way past the injuries.  Tennessee’s season could be better if the team wasn’t having to continuously rely on backups, and at this point in the season, the Vols can’t afford any more injuries.  If Tennessee loses backfield players or defensive linemen against Tennessee Tech, then it will give the Golden Eagles confidence to possibly pull off an upset.

Limit penalties

Penalties can be the difference in tight football games, so it’s important that Tennessee does not commit too many penalties and allow Tennessee Tech to stay in the game. The Vols can’t beat themselves because a team like Tennessee Tech could come into Neyland Stadium and beat the Vols. Tennessee must keep its composure and not make the mental mistakes to avoid another upset.

Mix up the play calling

Tennessee’s offense has been too predictable this season. Mike Debord, in particular, has been criticized for running too many of the same plays.  Tennessee needs to take more chances down the field earlier in games. The Vols need to allow their tall, athletic wide receivers (like Josh Malone and Jauan Jennings) opportunities to show their strengths down the field.  Tennessee Tech gave up 379 yards on defense in its game against Southeast Missouri  two weeks ago.  Tennessee should attack the Golden Eagles’ secondary with deep passes throughout the game.

Edited by Nathan Odom

Featured image by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District