June 15, 2024

Butch Jones first coach since Fulmer to open 2-0

Image from "Butch"

It was fitting that Tennessee Volunteers head coach Butch Jones opened his post-game press conference with General Neyland’s second Maxim.

After all, it was Jones’s second win in as many weeks. It also was only the second time in the last decade that the Volunteers have had a head coach start 2-0.

The Tennessee defensive unit was the star of this game. Between the five interceptions and the two forced fumbles, the Volunteers managed to take the ball away from the Hilltoppers seven times. That is the most turnovers forced by a Volunteer defense since 1984.

Defensive MVP honors should be given to Brian Randolph, though both Cam Sutton and Justin Coleman should also get consideration. Randolph posted eight tackles tied for second among Tennessee players and two interceptions, which lead the Vols. Sutton and Coleman both managed to return interceptions for touch downs, but Coleman managed six tackles and Sutton got only four.

Offensively it was not a promising day for QB Justin Worley. The starting QB was hovering around a 33% completion percentage at halftime, but he did manage to rally eventually ending the game 11-19 with a TD and an INT.

The majority of the offense came from an efficient running game. The offensive line and running back’s seemed to be on different pages early, but as the game progressed the Vols really came together. By the end of the game, 63% of the team’s offensive yards had come from the running game. In terms of scoring, 80% of the touchdowns were on the ground.

The offensive Co-MVP honors go to Antonio Richardson and Rajion Neal. Richardson continued to hold pass rushers at bay on the left side of the line, and Neal was responsible for three of the four rushing TDs for the home team.

Special teams had an up and down day. The good news for Tennessee was kicker Michael Palardy pinned WKU inside the one yard-line early in the game. Also despite missing their starting kick returner (Devrin Young) the Vols had a good day returning the ball, culminating in a return to the 40-yard line to start the second half. The bad news for Tennessee was a blocked punt late in the second quarter. Michael Palardy didn’t look deep enough and ended up having an errant defender come in and block the kick.

The Volunteers now look ahead to an Oregon team known for tempo and team speed, and the must cross the country to face them.

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