The Tennessee Volunteers followed up a double-overtime, hard-fought opening season win against ACC foe Georgia Tech with FCS opponent Indiana State in Knoxville on Saturday. With only a five day turn-around from Game 1, the theme of this evaluation will be “C.”
“C” as in several C grades. “C” as in grading on a curve. Indiana State isn’t even a good FCS team. They finished 8th in the Missouri Valley Conference last season. And “C” as in a very, very conservative approach to this game from Tennessee. So let’s look at the “C”s in this week’s Tennessee Game Grades Indiana State Edition.
Tennessee Game Grades Indiana State Edition
Larry Scott‘s offense wasn’t able to put up big numbers against a completely outmatched Indiana State team. The Vols only managed four offensive scores and had two turnovers coupled with four punts. It’s hard to be too disappointed with a 42-7 win after a five day turnaround. But again, this is a team that was 4-7 in the Missouri Valley Conference last season. They allowed four FCS teams last season to score more than the Vols offense did today.
And of course, the play calling was very vanilla. And that’s OK. But both the Quarterbacks and Offensive Line again didn’t seem to get into much of a rhythm. The good news is Tennessee did get to play a large numbers of players. That includes Jarrett Guarantano at Quarterback and five different rushers.
Offensive Stat of the Game: 7.8 Yards Per Pass. Tennessee’s passing game is clearly more vertical than years past.
Quinten Dormady had a decent day. His stat line of 13-for-18 for 194 yard and two touchdowns with one interception is, much like last week, pedestrian. Dormady, again as he did last week, seemed to settle down later in the game. The Vols starter missed two wide open deep passes in the first quarter that would have put Indiana State down three scores in the first quarter. In addition, he had a bad interception in the end zone and a fumble that could have been avoided. Both in the second half as Tennessee was trying to close out the Sycamores. It’s those missed opportunities that will come back to haunt the Vols against upcoming SEC opponents. Jarrett Guarantano made his Tennessee debut without much fanfare. Guarantano was 4-for-12 for 41 yards and one touchdown. He also added one first down on the ground.
While it’s clear that Guarantano has tons of talent, it’s also clear that Quinten Dormady is the quarterback for this team.
Running Backs: A-
John Kelly continued his strong start. Kelly ran with authority and gave the Vols several of their 24 first downs. Tennessee had five different rushers. In addition to Kelly, Carlin Fils-aime made his case for the number two slot. Fils-aime had two touchdowns and 41 yards on just three carries. He showed both speed and power, running over an Indiana State defender on the goal line. Ty Chandler had the big kickoff return touchdown, but didn’t do much on his four carries. Tim Jordan and Trey Coleman got valuable game experience in the second half.
Marquez Callaway is the new Cris Carter. All he does is catch touchdowns. He had one catch with one touchdown on the day. That gives him three touchdowns on five catches for the season. No one wants to play couch coach, but Tennessee ought to consider targeting Callaway more often. Brandon Johnson and Jeff George both showed their value in the red zone with big touchdown catches.
Offensive Line: C-
After an excellent first game, Trey Smith struggled several times today. He allowed the pressure that caused Dormady’s fumble in the second half. He also gave up a sack and a big tackle-for-loss. Again, just like last week, the line opened some nice running lanes, but didn’t perform as well in pass protection.
Yes, Tennessee lost the time of possession statistic again today. You might not have noticed it watching the game, but future opponents did. Yes, the Vols held the Sycamores to only seven points. And that came off of an offensive turnover in Tennessee territory. But still, this is a 4-7 FCS team. The Vols cannot lose the time of possession in a game that they want to get in and get out of. Tennessee also yielded 122 rushing yards. To a 4-7 FCS team. Bob Shoop must figure out what to do about the rushing defense before he faces Georgia, Alabama, LSU, and Vanderbilt.
Defensive Stat of the Game: Indiana State‘s 31-to-29 Time of Possession Advantage
Defensive Line: C
The interior line did well. It was clear that Tennessee was not going to allow an inside running game get going. That’s what killed them against Georgia Tech. The problem is that the defensive ends over-committed to the inside game. This allowed Indiana State to find success with just one play, the jet sweep. Indiana State managed 13 first downs. Almost all of those off the jet sweep. It was great to see Shy Tuttle and Kyle Phillips in the game. Phillips had several key plays in the second half. Jonathan Kongbo tormented the Indiana State quarterback all day. While he didn’t show up on the stat sheet much, he was definitely affecting the Sycamore signal caller.
An up-and-down game for the linebackers. With the defensive line selling out to stop any inside run, it was up to Colton Jumper to track the jet sweep from behind. He did so with limited success. The linebackers weren’t as active as they were last week, with Cortez McDowell and Daniel Bituli having solid games.
Defensive Backs: C
If any group played conservative, it was the defensive backs. They didn’t show many different coverage looks during the game and never really pressed the Sycamores receivers. Indiana State only managed 93 passing yards, although that has as much to do with quarterback performance as anything else. However, the defensive back technique is clearly better. Every time a Vols defensive back turns their head back to the ball, Vol fans everywhere smile.
Special Teams: B
Ty Chandler started the game off with big kickoff return touchdown. Chandler was barely touched twice on his 93-yard return. And Marquez Callaway had several nice punt returns. There were no issues in the kicking team. The biggest issue with special teams today was penalties. Special teams is still the best unit for the Vols. If they can clean up their penalties, they can give the Vols a decided field position advantage in close games.
An incredibly conservative game plan. And that’s OK. Butch Jones and his staff did what they had to do. They got the team ready on a short week and came out and kept Indiana State from building any momentum. They didn’t show Florida any significant film, got a lot of players into the game, and got out of the game without any big issues other than an injury.
Now it’s on to Florida. A win against Florida will go a long way in helping Butch Jones keep the fan base on his side.
It’s Florida week. The Gators sit at 0-1 after a thumping by Michigan in Week 1 and a cancelled game this week. Tennessee ended an 11-year losing streak last year in Knoxville. Both teams have questions yet unanswered this season. Florida still hasn’t found a rhythm on offense. And they are still battling suspensions from off-season indiscretions. Tennessee, of course, has injuries and is also struggling to find offensive rhythm.
Still, it seems Florida has fewer questions. Tennessee is still searching for consistency. The Vols do have a big road win at Georgia last season, but Gainesville will still be a tough test for a young squad. If Tennessee wins, it immediately causes concern for the Gator faithful. They will be 0-2 and still have tests against Georgia, LSU, and Florida State. Tennessee could provide a body blow to one of its rival programs. To do so, they’ll have to play better than they have in the first two weeks, however.
Next week will be test number three for this edition of the Vols. And we’ll be here to grade the answers.