Tennessee escapes shot of Minutemen

Tennessee improved to 3-1 on Saturday afternoon following a narrow 17-13 win over UMass.

KNOXVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 05, 2016 - running back John Kelly #4 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the homecoming game between the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Hayley Pennesi/Tennessee Athletics

On Saturday afternoon in Neyland Stadium, Tennessee picked up its third win of the season with a close 17-13 win over UMass (0-5).

“We needed to get win number three, and we got win number three,” head coach Butch Jones said following the game. “At the end of the day it’s all about getting the victory, but the performance was just flat out unacceptable and we’ll get back to work tonight.”

In front of a crowd of 95,324, Tennessee (3-1, 0-1 SEC) needed all sixty minutes to beat the winless Minutemen. UMass forced a Tennessee punt with 1:09 remaining in the fourth quarter, only needing a touchdown to win the game. The Vols defense buckled down, forcing UMass to turn the ball over on downs to close out the game.

Tennessee’s defense was stellar, allowing just 281 total yards of offense and forcing UMass to go 3-for14 on third-down. While the Vols only allowed 137 passing yards, the Minutemen did find success on the ground as they rushed for 144 yards.

John Kelly was one of the lone bright spots for the Tennessee offense. A week after a dominating performance against Florida, Kelly rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.

With both offenses struggling for most of the second half, Kelly rushed for a 12-yard touchdown to give Tennessee a 7-0 lead. Kelly would go on to rush for 80 yards in the first half.

UMass struck back immediately, driving 75-yards down the field on five plays for a touchdown. Ross Comis capped the drive off with a 5-yard rushing touchdown. After a missed extra point by the Minutemen, Tennessee held a 7-6 lead.

Like UMass, the Vols responded immediately to the Minutemen’s score. Nearing halftime, Tennessee Quinten Dormady led the Vols down the field and capped the drive off with an 8-yard passing touchdown to Tyler Byrd. It would be Dormady’s only passing touchdown of the day, as the Vols held a 14-6 lead at halftime.

If you enjoy offensive football, the second half of the Vols and Minutemen didn’t have you sitting on the edge of your seat.

Tennessee only managed to score three points in the second half, coming on a 40-yard field goal from Aaron Medley to extend Tennessee’s lead over UMass to 17-6.

As the Minutemen did in the first half, they responded to the Vols score immediately. Quarterback Andrew Ford would lead UMass on a 10-play drive, covering 75-yards, to hit Sadiq Palmer for a 13-yard touchdown. After the score, Tennessee led 17-13 with 2:51 remaining in the third quarter.

After Ford went down with an injury, the Minutemen were unable to muster anything on offense for the remainder of the game.

In his fourth career start, Dormady finished 17-of-27 for 187 yards and a touchdown. While Dormady started, redshirt-freshman Jarrett Guarantano entered the game near the end of the third quarter in order to try and spark the offense. Guarantano was unable to provide sparks, as he was just 2-of-5 for -3 yards. He added four rushing yards on three carries.

Sophomore wide receiver Brandon Johnson was Dormady’s favorite receiver on Saturday, as Johnson finished with career-highs in receptions (seven) and receiving yards (123).

Trevor Daniel was the star of the day for Tennessee. The Vols senior punter punted the ball eight times for an average of 48.9 yards-per-punt. Daniel had a long of 56-yards and pinned the Minutemen inside the 20-yard line four different times.

The Vols’ defense would finish the game with seven sacks, 12 tackles for a loss and six passes broken up. Tennessee’s seven sack were the most since recording seven against Vanderbilt in 2008.

Linebackers Colton Jumper and Quart’e Sapp led the way on defense for the Vols. Jumper finished with 3.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks, while Sapp led the team with nine tackles.

Tennessee now turns its attention to SEC East rival, No. 7 Georgia (4-0, 1-0 SEC). The Vols will square off with the Bulldogs in a pivotal matchup from Neyland Stadium at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS, next Saturday.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of UT Sports