A record crowd of over 156,000, witnessed the Tennessee Volunteers get the checkered flag in the “Battle at Bristol” on Saturday night.Coming into the game there was a lot of talk of whether or not the Vols were overrated. After their disappointing showing against Appalachian State last week, would the real Volunteers show up at Bristol Motor Speedway? The answer was far from yes, at least in the early goings. Head Coach Butch Jones had to be frustrated with his team as a whole.
The Tennessee offense struggled to start with two three and outs and a four play drive that resulted in a punt. Managing just 28 yards with one first down. While on the other side, Virginia Tech had no problem going up and down the field. Their first possession went 13 plays and took up over five minutes. Fortunately for the Vols, the Hokies have an inaccurate kicker. On their next two possessions, the Hokies capitalized on their opportunities getting the ball into the end zone. Junior quarterback Jerod Evans found halfback Sean Rogers in the flat for a seven-yard touchdown reception. Then, on their next possession, running back Trevon McMillian took the ball 69-yards down the side line out running the Tennessee secondary for a touchdown run.
At times, all a team needs is a little spark to ignite and to switch momentum. In college football momentum is a funny thing and it carries with it a lot of emotion for players. Fourth on the depth chart at the quarterback position, Stephen Jones was on camera trying to light that fire into his offense and screaming at the defense to get it going. The right words must have been said, because on the first play to start the second quarter, the timing on the Jet Sweep for the Hokies was off. Evans couldn’t control the snap from center, which created a fumble that the Vols recovered, and gave them the break they needed inside the Virginia Tech 10-yard line.
Quarterback Josh Dobbs struggled against App State and in the first portion of this contest, but he was able to find Jauan Jennings on the fade route to finally get Tennessee on the board. That seemed to be all the Volunteers needed to get going. While Tennessee was getting the ball rolling, the Hokies were falling apart, because the Vols were able to score 31 unanswered points to go up by 17 in the third quarter.
Dobbs didn’t blow you away with his passing numbers going 10-19 for 91 yards, but he did take advantage of what Virginia Tech gave him. A few open lanes for him to run through and that resulted in 105 yards on the ground and the short field based off Hokie turnovers. Dobbs was responsible for five of the six Tennessee touchdowns.
New Virginia Tech Head Coach Justin Fuente had to be pulling his hair out after Saturday night’s game wondering what happened from the first to the second quarter. The Hokies were in command, controlling the tempo and the momentum. The simple answer to their demise is fumbles. The Hokies had lost seven fumbles all of last year. In the first two games this season, they have already lost eight. That is not a recipe for success. All their turnovers on Saturday were due to fumbles that led to 24 points, and it could have been worse, but Tennessee missed a few field goals.
The ability to be able to hold on to the ball will have to be addressed ASAP before their game against Boston College, or what should be an easy win can end up in a dog fight.
The Volunteers need to continue with the momentum for this week’s game against Ohio and maintain their confidence into the following week when they face Florida. The Gators are coming off a dominating performance against Kentucky. They will be looking to ratchet up the offense against Tennessee, especially if the Vols start the game the way they did against Virginia Tech.