On a beautiful night inside Neyland Stadium, Tennessee’s football team continued to build up momentum, as the month turned to November. The Vols came out against UAB with a purpose, not lacking any kind of spark you might’ve seen earlier in the year. This was a team that handled business & Bryce Thompson set the tone early.
Brent Cimaglia nailed a 37-yard field goal to put the Vols up 3-0, early in the 1st quarter. After another Vols drive stalled out, it was Cimaglia again, this time from 48-yards.
Tennessee continued to bring defensive pressure from different angles, forcing the Blazers into uncomfortable spots. In the 2nd quarter, Bryce Thompson snagged his 2nd interceptipon of the day. If only the Tennessee offense could get something going.in those first few possessions, as Cimaglia hit another FG that gave the Vols a 9-0 lead.
Finally though, after a strip by Darrel Middleton, the Vols took back over with great field position. Tennessee punched it in with a Ty Chandler 11-yard touchdown run that put the Vols up 16-0.Honestly, It should’ve been a bigger hole for UAB.
The QB position has been a hot topic ever since Brian Maurer exited the Alabama game. Maurer has gotten some reps during practice & has cleared all protocol, so the questions remains. When will we see Brian Maurer again? Jeremy Pruitt addressed the situation by saying “We worked Brian to be ready to play. But with three quarterbacks, it was hard to get Brian as many reps as he probably needed to be ready. So we elected to go with the other guys today. He will have an opportunity to get more reps as we get into it. We are still kind of seeing where we are at there.
Tennessee had trouble though along the offensive front, as certain players was confused on multiple occasions that led to hits on Jarrett Guarantano & the group never seemed to be cohesive. But, Bryce Thompson came to the rescue, who recorded his 3rd interception of the day, off a tipped pass in the 2nd quarter.
Another interception by Bryce Thompson (His 3rd, and the most since Deon Grant in 1999) got Tennessee back in great field position. Enter Jauan Jennings, who lined up at QB & ran it in for the Touchdown, which sent the crowd into a cold frenzy. Jennings was trying really hard to quiet the crowd down before the snap, but had no luck. Jauan finished off the short drive for Tennessee, giving them a 23-0 lead.
Bryce Thompson continues to grow his game & Jeremy Pruitt commented on what he saw out of him tonight. “He really just did what he was supposed to do. One time, we’re playing cut, and he splits the zone and the quarterback stares down when they run four verticals, makes a poor throw, and he breaks on the ball. One time, they ran a deep comeback and we’re playing two man, and the ball really shouldn’t be thrown that way, it was, and he made them pay there. The last time, he was playing the money position. Theo Jackson didn’t play tonight, so Bryce moved inside and played money, which is where we were going to play him all year until he was out for a few weeks and didn’t get as many reps, so there are a lot of balls that go to the fourth receiver on the other team on third down. You’ve got two guys outside, and you’ve got the guy that your star is on and our money guy, two and three, lots of balls go to them, so he made a good play and undercut the guy.”
Tennessee came out in the 2nd half with JT Shrout at QB, but that didn’t last long, Guarantano came in on the next series The bright spot of the 2nd half was Eric Gray getting his 1st career TD at Tennessee. The offense never truly got on the same page tonight, though at times they showed flashes. It was the defense that carried the Vols on Saturday night.
After multiple sacks & interceptions, the defense was attacking the QB from many different angles, causing UAB many problems. This was a night for the Tennessee defense to shine, which is exactly what they did in a multitude of ways.
This team never looked bothered on defense, though they might’ve given up a few more plays than needed. No, this was a group that was getting pressure upfront, off the edge & multiple blitz packages. This is a group that will continue to grow, with three games left, they’ve figured out the pressure scheme. This makes the Vols look like a team that has grown with coaching & practice.
Jeremy Pruitt was asked about how he thought the DL played tonight:”I felt like we kept them behind the chains. They do a lot of seven-man protecting, which is what they do. That is one of the reasons why they don’t give up a lot of sacks, because they are in seven-man protect all the time. But we did get a little bit of pressure. I thought we guarded them in the back end. I thought our defensive staff did a really nice job getting our guys ready to play. I thought our defensive players practiced well all week, so it was not surprising how they played. So it was good when they made mistakes, we made them pay. Bryce (Thompson) made three interceptions. Darel Middleton caused a fumble that Aubrey Solomon recovered. We should’ve had that pick at the end, but it was dropped out there in the middle of the field. But when they make mistakes, you’ve got to make them pay, and we did that tonight.”
Though JT Shrout started the game, Pruitt went to Jarrett Guarantano, who finished 13-21 for 147 yards, 1 TD & 1 INT, The Vols were led on the ground by Ty Chandler, who had 85 yards on 16 carries with 1 TD. At receiver, Jauan Jennings continues to be the leader of the group, finishing with 70 yards on 5 receptions.“
Jeremy Pruitt was asked postgame about the use of QB’s heading into the game “I thought it gave us the best chance to win. One guy had surgery on Sunday. It is cold out there, and he has a cast on his hand. First time getting out there, you see him in warm ups and he practiced most of the week, but the ball was pretty slick there the way the air was tonight. If J.T. (Shrout) doesn’t run across the field or throw across his body, back over there when we were in field goal range, he might have kept playing. There are some mistakes as the quarterback that you can’t make. You might miss a throw. You might not check the ball to the proper side. You can’t let go of the football in the red zone. We can’t make those mistakes.”
This Jeremy Pruitt led team is still looking for the game where they put it all together, tonight’s 37-0 win wasn’t it. But, at least you know this football team came out fighting & held onto a lead, something that is starting to become a habit. Tennessee is 3-1 in their last 4 games, if they can somehow get on a run, bowling in Florida is not out of question.