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What The Vols Must Do to Beat Pittsburgh

The Vols start the season 1-0 after a 38-6 win over Bowling Green.

QB Joe Milton threw the ball 11/23 for 140 yards and a TD in the Vols win over the Falcons.

Milton also rushed for 44 yards and 2 scores as well.

However, Tennessee’s bright spot on offense was from the running back duo of Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small.

Both Small and Evans rushed for 116 yards each and a TD as well.

Tennessee’s defense managed to hold Bowling Green’s offense to just 219 yards of total offense and only 32 yards of rushing.

DB Theo Jackson had a stellar performance in the Vols win racking up 11 total tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss.

Tennessee will be taking on the Pittsburgh Panthers this Saturday in Neyland Stadium in the Johnny Majors Classic.

The Johnny Majors Classic will kickoff at noon and will be televised on ESPN.

Pittsburgh is coming off a dominant 51-7 win over UMass.

The Panthers had 598 yards of total offense in their win over UMass.

272 of those yards came from QB Kenny Pickett who went 27/37 and threw for 2 TDs.

Pickett also had 6 carries for 39 yards as well in their win over the Minutemen.

Pitt’s defense only held UMass to just 209 yards of total offense.

This is the first time since 1983 that the Vols and Pitt have faced each other.

Pittsburgh has won both meetings against the Vols in 1980 and 1983.

Recently, Tennessee and Pittsburgh announced this game would be known as the Johnny Majors Classic to honor the football legend who coached Tennessee to 3 SEC Championships and Pittsburgh to a National Championship.

For the Vols to get their first win over Pittsburgh and win the first-ever Johnny Majors Classic, here is what they must do:

Need Consistency From Joe Milton

Many of us thought that Joe Milton was going to sling the football down the field and rack up 300 passing yards last Thursday.

Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Milton’s performance was not terrible, but it was certainly not memorable.

Milton threw the ball 11/23 for 140 yards and a passing TD, and 2 rushing TDs.

Milton started the game well, completing 9 of his 11 passes but then struggled to complete two more passes.

Granted, a few great passes from Milton were dropped, including two dropped passes from Jalin Hyatt.

One of my biggest takeaways from his performance is that he held on to the football too long and lacked accuracy on the deep balls.

These are all things that can be worked on and improved.

However, Milton needs to work on this because he won’t get as much time against Pitt’s D-Line as he did against Bowling Green.

Pittsburgh’s front seven is the main strength of Pittsburgh’s defense.

While they did lose two All-Americans, Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones, to the NFL, they have plenty of depth on the line with John Morgan, Haba Baldonado, Deslin Alexander, and others.

Pitt’s corners love to play one-on-one situations; this could set up well for Josh Heupel’s game plan, who like to throw the ball deep.

Milton can not stare at his main target; the Vols have a great chance on Saturday if he can scan down the field and connect the deep ball.

Otherwise, this will be a long game for the Big Orange.

Put Pressure On Kenny Pickett

One of the tasks that Tennessee’s front seven will have to do is to put pressure on QB Kenny Pickett.

Pickett threw 27 for 37 for 272 yards and 2 TDs in their win against UMass.

Pickett is also coming off a 2020 season where he threw for over 2400 yards and 13 TDs, and 9 INTs.

The senior is a well-experienced QB who is smart with the football and can move out of the pocket if needed.

Now Tennessee did do a decent job putting pressure on Bowling Green’s QB Mac McDonald last Thursday, but there is still room for improvement.

Tennessee only managed to record two sacks last Thursday, coming from Tyler Barron and Da’Jon Terry.

The line has to do a better job of putting pressure on the QB and force Pickett out of the pocket.

Pickett is the type of QB that loves to throws the ball deep when he’s given a chance.

Pitt has a solid O-Line that gives Pickett enough time to be able to throw the ball deep.

Much like Heupel’s offense, Pitt’s offense often plays in the shotgun formation and spreads out their receivers for one-on-one situations.

Elijah Simmons did a great job against Bowling Green’s line on creating gaps and disrupting the passing game.

However, Pittsburgh’s offensive line is far bigger and better than Bowling Green’s line.

If Tennessee can manage to disrupt Pitt’s O-Line and force Pickett out of the pocket, the Vols will be in this game.

But if Pickett is given time and can throw the ball deep, it will be a long day for the Vols defense.

Feed The Run Game

Easily the biggest highlight of the Vols win against Bowling Green was the running game of Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small.

A lot of hype was surrounding this part of the offense, and they certainly showed that.

Both Evans and Small ran for 116 yards and a touchdown each.

Milton also ran for 44 yards and 2 TDs as well.

Tennessee’s rushing game looks like it will be the strength of the offense this season.

Despite losing Eric Gray and Ty Chandler to the portal, Thursday proved that Tennessee has depth and talent in the backfield.

Pittsburgh front seven will be a tougher task for the Vols run game than Bowling Green was.

Pittsburgh has one of the most experienced defenses in the country and allowed only just 93 yards a game in 2020.

But despite this, this should not steer away from the Vols from the run game, and it is not unrealistic to think the Vols can run for 150 yards.

If the Vols can get the rushing game going early, they will be able to control the game’s tempo.

But if Tennessee starts to rely on the pass early in the game, this will make things more difficult for the Vols offense.

Saturday’s game will be a great test for Josh Heupel and this football team.

Pittsburgh is a winnable game and is certainly on the same level as the Vols.

If the Vols fail to get their first win against Pittsburgh on Saturday, it won’t be season-ending, but it will make the Vols’ road to getting 6 wins more difficult.

But if Tennessee can win on Saturday, not only will this carry huge momentum for the Florida game at the end of the month, but it will bring back that excitement that has been missing from this fanbase.

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