Five Takeaways From Tennessee’s Win over UTEP
#1 – A Troubling Pattern
In each of its first two games, Tennessee’s offense got off to slow starts. The Vols repeated that trend in the UTEP game. Tennessee didn’t score until the final minutes of the first quarter when Brent Cimgalia connected on a 38-yard field goal. The Vols didn’t score a touchdown until the second quarter. Tennessee needs to find a way to get its offense going early because the level of competition will only increase when SEC play starts next week.
#2 – First shutout since 2016
Tennessee’s 24-0 win over UTEP marks its first shutout win since November of 2016 when the Vols beat Tennessee Tech 55-0. There are still question marks surrounding this defense though. However, a shutout is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, even if it came against a team with a (now) 15-game losing streak.
#3 – The defense is improving…Maybe…
Tennessee’s defense didn’t give up any points and held UTEP to 134 yards of total offense. The Vols enjoyed a similar level of success against ETSU, only giving up three points and 194 yards of total offense in that game. Those numbers look impressive on paper, but it is difficult to gauge how much the defense has improved since the West Virginia game because the level of competition was drastically reduced in both games. Tennessee fans will have a better idea about the defense’s development when Florida comes to Neyland Stadium next week. However, the defensive numbers in the last two games are definitely encouraging.
#4 – Too many turnovers and penalties
Tennessee had a touchdown negated by a penalty in the first half and had to settle for a field goal. On another trip to the redzone, the Vols fumbled the ball near goal line. Another unforced error came when Marquez Callaway fumbled the ball on a punt return, giving UTEP favorable field position inside the 50-yard line. Tennessee was penalized eight times for 65 yards. The Vols can overcome two turnovers and eight penalties against teams like UTEP, but they can ill afford to make that many mistakes against SEC opponents. Tennessee needs to take better care of the football and quit committing penalties. The Vols also need to score when they have opportunities and stop leaving points on the field.
#5 – Quality depth at the running back position
Tennessee rushed for 345 yards against UTEP. Ty Chandler led the Vols with 158 yards on 12 carries, the bulk of which came on his 81-yard touchdown run. Madre London added 74 yards on the ground. Tim Jordan and Jeremy Banks both added 49 yards rushing. Tennessee may lack of depth in other position groups, but it looks like the Vols enjoy plenty of depth at the running back position. All four backs have scored touchdowns and have proved they can be solid contributors in Tennessee’s backfield.