The Tennessee Volunteers (1-2, 0-0 SEC) secured their first win of the season by beating the Chattanooga Mocs (1-2, 0-0 SoCon) 45-0.
Chattanooga struggled to contain Tennessee’s starters from the opening kickoff, which Ty Chandler returned for 58 yards. Tennessee’s second string was in by the end of the first half.
Tennessee has struggled to force turnovers this season, as the Vols had just one coming into the Chattanooga game.
On Saturday, Tennessee forced five turnovers in the form of four picks and one fumble recovery.
“If you’re running around hitting people, or if you get your hands up and you bat balls, if you’ve got a lot of people swarming and peppering the ball carrier, there seems to be more balls out,” Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt said in a press conference after the game. “We got a couple of interceptions today, which was good.”
The Vols did not turn the ball over, though backup quarterback JT Shrout threw an interception that was overturned by a roughing the passer call.
After throwing into coverage multiple times against BYU, Jarrett Guarantano showed why he is still Tennessee’s starting quarterback against Chattanooga.
Guarantano’s first pass was an incompletion that could have been picked. After that, he made the most of his limited playing time, completing seven-of-eight passes for 142-yards and 3 touchdowns.
“He deserves to be our quarterback; he’s outplayed everybody,” Pruitt said.
Backup quarterbacks JT Shrout and Brian Maurer also saw significant playing time against the Mocs.
Shrout completed just three of his nine passes and made multiple errant throws.
Maurer failed to complete a pass on two attempts. However, the mobile quarterback put up 16 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
“They both did some good things today, and they both also made some horrible decisions today, but that’s expected,” Pruitt said. “Today was their first opportunities, which is why we’ve been wanting to get them out there.”
After the game, Guarantano showed faith in his fellow quarterbacks.
“I knew that Brian [Maurer] and J.T. [Shrout] needed some snaps,” Guarantano told the press. “Going into this rough schedule we have in the SEC, we have to rely on the backup quarterbacks sooner or later. That happens all the time. Going into the game, I’m happy with how they performed.”
Tennessee was very efficient on offense and kicked just one field goal all game. Brent Cimaglia made that one field goal and also knocked in six extra points.
Cimaglia is still perfect on the season after the third game.
While any win is good, Tennessee’s win over Chattanooga does not reveal much going forward.
However, Chattanooga coach Rusty Wright said that Tennessee is trending in the right direction.
“They’ve gotten better from week one to week two,” Wright said about the Vols in a press conference after the game. “I don’t know if we gave them much of a test in week three to see if they got any better honestly, but they’ve gotten better.”
Apart from a November matchup against the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Tennessee will face a tough SEC schedule for the remainder of the season.
To win at Florida next week, Tennessee will have to create turnovers, protect the ball and keep Guarantano upright.
If the Vols can play the Gators competitively, then Tennessee’s win over Chattanooga may have gotten the Vols back on track.
If not, then Tennessee may struggle to find wins the rest of the way.
Edited by Ciera Noe and Ainsley Kelso
Featured photo by Ben Gleason